Amazon High Tech Grocery Stores


Grace Keith, Contributing Editor

As Amazon continues to submerge itself into the food industry, they are beginning to surprise the nation with their new ideas for recreating the grocery shopping experience. Their latest innovation is called Amazon Go, which eliminates the check-out line from the shopping experience. It changes the checkout process by scanning customers’ smartphones upon entry and using mobile sensing technology to keep tabs on the items people remove from shelves as well as who removed them.

The “just walk out” technology has been perfected and tested in Amazon’s experimental convenience store, located in downtown Seattle, home of Amazon headquarters. The technology used by the store uses some of the sensing technology that powers self-driving cars to figure out who is buying what.

As a test, some employees have tried fooling the technology. They did this by trying to disguise themselves as inhuman characters in elaborate costumes. Three employees dressed up in bright yellow Pikachu costumes and ran around grabbing various store items including meals, drinks, and snacks. Yet the mechanical system could not be tricked. According to Bloomberg technologies, “the algorithms nailed it, correctly identifying the employees and charging their Amazon accounts, even though they were obscured behind yellow polyester.”

The company was, however, forced to postpone their public launch due to minor glitches in the technology. The system works well for shoppers on their own, but according to Bloomberg Technologies, “struggles to accurately charge people who are moving around in groups, such as families with grabby kids.” Amazon Go engineers are modifying their technology even further to be able to recognize when a child takes a bite out of something they have taken off a shelf while wandering around the store unsupervised. Also, the engineers are trying to figure out which person to charge when couples come in together.

The company is doing all they can to improve their system. They have organized focus groups and real-life scenarios to test the high-tech convenience store. These scenarios include the return of spoiled items or customers with service issues.

Since the original Amazon Go store was created in Seattle, 13 more have been placed throughout seven different states in the past two years.

After Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods in September, the rather high end grocery chain began pursuing store-wide price cuts, and assured that those prices would continue to fall as it fully makes use of Amazon Prime’s subscription service. Due to this acquisition, it is expected that a version of Amazon Go will appear in Whole Foods Stores across the nation.