Earlier this month Amazon released a cool video that spread like wildfire centered around it’s new venture called Amazon Go. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now.
It’s a brick and mortar store. Walk in, pick out your items and walk out. No lines, no cashiers. Just go.
I was captivated watching the video and fireworks went off, “Of course that’s where we’re going!” I admit I’m a little slow, IBM put this thought into the world ten years ago. It makes sense, taking those self checkout lines from the grocery store to the next level.
For the next few days I kept thinking about it, and the fact that it’s opening in the next few months. This new concept and new technology will be live in the world. In fact, it already is. Amazon is currently beta testing the flagship store with their employees. How long will it be before “Just Walk Out” technology is in every city? How long before it takes over full grocery stores, big box stores, department stores?
And beyond that…how does it even work, really?
I found this article which gave an overview. Basically you need an Amazon account, a smartphone and the Amazon Go app, all of which I assumed. You check in with your phone, which also makes sense. Then when the shoppers are in the store they are tracked via cameras and microphones. This is where it started to blow my mind:
“Combined with embedded sensors, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, the Amazon system is so nuanced that it can distinguish when two people are reaching for the same item based on individual skin tones.”
That’s crazy cool.
It’s a similar technology to that which is being used in self driving cars using cameras and deep learning.
But why has Amazon decided to take another step into the real world when their vision is focused on creating a business centered around giving people the ability to find anything they need to buy online. I believe they’ve made a realization that at this point people aren’t ready to buy everything online and while I think these pop-up stores will be more like convenience stores than grocery stores to start the impetus is the struggle to get people over the hump of having groceries delivered.
In my house we use Subscribe and Save for things we used to go to Costco for. Paper towels, toilet paper, energy bars, this green stuff I drink every morning and other non-perishables. There very may well be a day in which all our groceries are delivered, but we’re not at a point now where Amazon can replace running to the corner store for a gallon of milk, a quick bite, or as an excuse to get out of the office for a few minutes. Amazon Go is beginning to tackle this. This is just the start, but you can be sure they techology will begin to permeate through our society in the coming years.
Of course with this new technology there is concern that the technology will eliminate jobs of the many, and it will. There is opportunity for it support other jobs, such as the prepackaged food that they will be supplying, but for the standard cashier they’re now in as much danger as truck drivers are of the self-driving relationship taking their livelihood away.
The world is changing rapidly and this is only one of the major shifts we’ll see in the coming years. It’s an exciting time but one that must be considered and talked about. This statement from Stephen Hawking is a good place to start. It’s about a five minute read, take the time and check it out. Let me know what you think in the comments below.