Welcome to Amazon Go: The Future of Shopping!

Have you heard of Amazon Go yet?

No? Well, then trust you me, it’s definitely the next big thing in retail.

So what is the hype about?

How many times have you deliberately not gone to the grocery store to avoid standing in serpentine – okay maybe that’s over-dramatization – checkout queues? At least once, if not more.

So here’s the thing. If you are shopping at an Amazon Go store, you pick up what you want and walk out. No payment! No standing in lines! No fumbling for cards or cash!

As good as that may sound, it’s not really clear when will Amazon come up with Amazon Go stores across all of USA. At present, there’s only one location with Amazon Go store in Seattle, which happens to be Amazon’s hometown.

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But how does this thing work?

The store in Seattle has some basic perishable stuff like bread, milk, and cheese along with pre-made snacks and fresh meals. So all you need to do is to go to the Amazon Go app and enter your store (location) and start shopping. But, you’ll have to wait till 2017.  As of now, the app is only available to Amazon employees in beta.

Further details are rather vague. Amazon is reticent about how the ‘Just Walk Out Shopping’ experience is going to work. Public information is limited to jargons like computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.

How will Amazon know who buys what?

If and when Amazon rolls out the stores, it’ll involve a lot of tracking and Artificial Intelligence. The system will involve usage of sensors throughout the (physical) stores and AI to figure out which direction you are looking at, even in a crowd. The sensors would also be able to identify partially blocked labels.

As for your order/purchases, the app is going to add up all the items you buy and charge it to your Amazon account. Now, that IS hassle-free shopping.

Retail tech and computer vision experts have already given the thumbs up for the mechanism the Amazon Go ads have shown. Here’s the video for you.

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With projects like these, AI, RFID, machine learning technologies are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives.

Is this the first such attempt at making shopping easier?

The short answer is NO!

Amazon calls it the ‘world’s most advanced shopping technology’ but it certainly isn’t the first such attempt. A number of companies with names like RetailNext, Euclid, and Nomi, have all tried their hands at ‘Just Walk Out Shopping’.

The major challenge with the ‘No Checkout’ shopping is to track every single customer activity.

To begin with, there has to be a mechanism to track customers when they enter a store. What you take out of the racks has to be tracked, what you keep back has to be tracked. Even your movement within the store can be tracked to get a better idea about preferences, store layout, and what is more convenient for you.

Not that others in the race haven’t done all of this. But what sets Amazon Go apart is the fact that it is going to links products to individuals. Now this has its pros and cons:

  • Linking products with individuals will give stores the liberty to track them using mobile Wi-Fi addresses which in turn will let smartphones interact with real-world items. In contrast, other companies have so far used less sophisticated techniques like video analytics and beacons.
  • On the downside, if Amazon doesn’t get the linking right, then someone might get away with not paying for items he/she bought or worse still someone else could be charged with items they didn’t buy.

At present, there is no known solution to attach the products to the person as they leave the store. That means Amazon must be employing something new to go ahead and attempt something which needs 100% accuracy.

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Another problem that Amazon Go has to deal with is customers’ habit of putting things back in the wrong aisle/rack. That makes tracking a little more complicated. Have you not done this ever? Liar!

As far as logistics go, Amazon certainly is better equipped than all other competitors taken together. And they are certainly going to play to their strengths. But for now, you can only wait and watch till Amazon Go becomes a nation-wide phenomenon, hopefully.

Till then you can gain some more knowledge about AI, Machine Learning, Deep Learning and more with our upcoming posts. You’ll need to know the basics to make the most out the Amazon Go experience!


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