Self-driving car tech for 'no lines, no checkout' shopping by Amazon - The Financial Express

Self-driving car tech for ‘no lines, no checkout’ shopping by Amazon

The Amazon Go stores will use an array of artificial intelligence technologies (similar to the one used in autonomous cars) to monitor the items picked up by customers and once they walk out of the store, the total cost will automatically be deducted from their Amazon account

By: | Updated: December 7, 2016 2:33 PM
The new 'Just Walk Out' technology is similar to self driving cars with a host of sensors and autonomous devices The new 'Just Walk Out' technology is similar to self driving cars with a host of sensors and autonomous devices

For years, we've been bombarded with illustrations and animations of how the world will look like when cars drive themselves. Sure, the scenario sets the horses of imagination on a derby race but reality is still a few years away and further more for India. However, some companies are using similar technology to completely transform the way one looks at shopping. In the present scenario, one needs to walk into a store, pick the desired stuff and then stand in a queue at the checkout line for paying the bill. At times, especially on weekends, the queue can be more time-consuming than the shopping itself. All this is set to change soon as Amazon has announced it'll soon launch its Go food & convenience stores, which will allow customers to walk in, pick up stuff and simply walk out. Amazon calls this technology 'Just Walk Out'. What about the payment then?

According to Amazon, the store will make use of advanced vision systems, deep learning algorithms and a sensor-based network. This artificial intelligence environment is claimed to be capable of being able of tracking any movement of items within the store. As a result, if you were to pick a packet of corn flakes, it would automatically get billed to your Amazon account when you leave the store. Within the store, if you change your mind and put the packet back again, it'll be unbilled too automatically. As this would mean the store would not need to have a checkout line for bill payment and customers will simply walk in and walk out.

Amazon hasn't shared further details on the technology or how it'll work but similar technology used in autonomous vehicles is today capable of tracking the slightest movement by drivers and other elements on the road. Based on the road conditions, the car systems can send alerts to the occupants or fellow drivers on the road so it isn't surprising when Amazon claims that articles taken from their self will get billed once the customer walks out of the store.

The video herein shows a customer tagging their smartphone with the Amazon application while entering the store. This is probably how the main system would identify each customer for tracking. The cameras along with the sensors will constantly send data on the items removed/ placed by the customer as s/he moves around the store. If one were to believe that Amazon has a plan in place for mass deployment of this retail concept, the possibilities around content-sharing and advertising could be immense. Imagine searching for a specific type of chilli sauce online but it's out of stock. At an Amazon Go store you might pick a regular tomato sauce and be prompted on your phone or on display screens inside the store of the location of the chilli sauce you've been looking for but forgot to pick in the store. Amazon could also share this data with other vendors and do a lot more, hinting at the immense opportunity the digital space provides. Although none of this has been confirmed by the company, these are a few of the multiple options Amazon would already have in mind if it intends to go big on the Go stores.

Although, details are scarce, one cannot help ignoring the huge cost involved in creating such a complex setup. The company has also not disclosed how many such physical stores it'll open in the coming years. Given the available details and the video, for now, we can only say that either this is an attention-catching PR exercise or else the company has figured out a way to bring down the cost of the technology in discussion. If the latter is true, Amazon can soon expect many carmakers taking interest in Amazon Go. If not, the company will still end up creating a technology that will serve as a hotbed for smaller and simpler off-shoot technologies, which might have the potential to enhance the retail shopping experience.

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