After more than a year of waiting, Amazon’s mini-mart of the future, Amazon Go, finally opened today in Seattle.
With the long-awaited launch, Amazon’s finally gets to test its retail store of the future with real consumers (and not just employees), where customers can simply pluck items from shelves and exit the store without ever having interact with a cashier or other store employees.
This initial location resembles a nicely designed convenience store, albeit one stocked with high-end sandwiches and Whole Foods’ 365 brand snacks geared towards an affluent millennial customer base. Shoppers can also get salads, prepared breakfasts, some alcoholic beverages, and the odd pantry staple.
Customers enter the store by downloading the Amazon Go app at entryway turnstiles. Once inside, you simply pick the items you want from the shelves and exit the store. Purchases are automatically billed to your Amazon account. Sensors and cameras monitor the entire process, working with Amazon’s computer vision system to recognize who took what and charge the correct account accordingly. If you’re mistakenly charged for an item you didn’t grab, you can get a refund by simply pressing a button.
And while there are no cashiers—an angle Amazon is pushing hard—there are still some actual employees onsite, including chefs and people to check IDs for beer and wine sales.
The opening has received responses of all kinds on social media. Some praise it as “the future of retail.” Others are warier, many for legitimate reasons. Some are already discussing shoplifting, and it seems one customer actually did shoplift, though inadvertently.
While undoubtedly the biggest name to enter this space of “humanless retail,” Amazon’s not the only one. Both Robomart and AlPoly got a lot of attention at this year’s CES. The latter is essentially the startup version of Amazon Go, and so the idea of the tech giant acquiring them seems a likely possibility.
That, of course, begs the question of where else we’ll see this technology, either at more Amazon Go locations or implemented in other stores. Is it something we will eventually see widespread across Whole Foods locations? Would there ever be a drive-thru version? Let’s hope so.