Remember the scene in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi blockbuster, Minority Report, where John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) went into a future Gap store and was identified (albeit as Yakamoto, the eyes he was transplanted with) and welcomed by a virtual shop assistant? Well, as it turns out, the future is pretty much as predicted by Hollywood and we have Amazon Go to thank. The online retail giant has announced that it will be opening a grocery store in Seattle, Washington, next year that let us have a peek into what physically grocery shopping of near future will be like.
Amazon Go won’t have virtual staff to greet you though or openly identifying you, but it promised that you, as a customer, will never have to queue or even check out. Leveraging on a system of computer vision, sensors and deep learning, the store will be able to track you as you move around and detects the item you have picked up, automatically compiling them into your virtual shopping cart where, upon leaving the store, the amount will be billed to your Amazon account. If you change your mind while still in the store, all you have to do is to place the item back and the item will be automatically removed from your bill.
There’s no retina scan to identify you though. However, an app, appropriately called Amazon Go, will enable you access into the store to start your human interaction-free grocery shopping experience. Perfect for those who hate human-to-human interaction or simply for times when you just want to grab-and-go things that you need without wasting time on queues and human cashiers. However, it looks like, for a start, the products available in Amazon Go will be limited to handmade pre-prepared food and stuff like bottled/packaged beverages. Not sure about fresh produce though. Probably not those yet as some fresh produce’s prices go by weighing which I supposed need more complex smart mechanics to compute. I don’t know.
Anyways, while exciting, Amazon Go’s proposition will have serious implications on employment, since it will no doubt negate the need for cashiers. But I guess we all have to adapt somehow and perhaps, instead being trained as cashier, we should all be trained as a low-level software engineer or something of sort. Also, obviously, not exactly a good news for students of the future who try to supplement their tuition fees with part time job in an establishment like a grocery store.
Image: screengrab from YouTube video.