Microsoft is reportedly working on its own cashierless checkout technology in a bid to take on cross-town rival, Amazon, according to a story in Reuters.
The reported technology is similar to the Amazon Go store experience, where what you put in your cart is automatically tracked and charged to you without the need to go through a checkout line or cashier. Reuters goes on to report that Microsoft has engaged in talks with Walmart about the technology.
If true, the news isn’t that surprising for a number of reasons. First, Amazon Go uses technology like computer vision and artificial intelligence to know what you put (and keep) in your bag. Computer vision and AI are two areas of focus for Microsoft research. Second, we’ve known since December that Walmart is exploring its own computer vision-based cashierless store experience (and last month, the retailer killed its Scan and Go approach to cashierless shopping).
Finally, and most obvious, nobody wants to cede even more of the future of shopping to Amazon, and grocery shopping is no exception. Amazon already owns Whole Foods and is expanding discounts and two-hour delivery for its 100 million-strong Prime members. Plus, the first Amazon Go store is very impressive, is expanding into Chicago and San Francisco, and absolutely should be replicated elsewhere.
Moves like these have sent grocery retailers scrambling to compete. Target and Walmart are expanding their two-hour delivery service. Albertsons partnered with Instacart, and Kroger just invested more heavily in Ocado to build out twenty rapid-delivery robot warehouses here in the U.S.. Not to mention Walmart experimenting with its own fridge-to-fridge delivery service similar to Amazon Key.
Plus, other smaller players are working on their own versions of cashierless tech. All_ebt has Amazon Go-like ambitions for those on food stamps. Caper has its own computer vision and deep learning smart checkout cart. And AI Poly, whose CEO is speaking at our Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle, has its own autonomous market in the works.
So while Microsoft provided a big “no comment” for Reuters, the idea of the Redmond giant working on such technology shouldn’t come as a news flash to anyone following the industry.