The future is here! Flying cars? Androids? Lightsabers? Nope… something even more important.
Amazon announced their new “Amazon Go” venture, a high-tech shopping market that allows you to walk in, grab what you want, and walk out. No lines, no cashiers, just grab and go. Sounds pretty neat, right?
Apparently, the store relies on mobile technology (via a smartphone app), computer-monitoring, and learning technologies to keep track of customers, what they’re picking up, and what they’re walking out with. What those precisely entail, though, isn’t exactly clear. Cameras? Tags and sensors? Infra-red robot spiders that stalk you?
In addition to making shopping more efficient and cutting down on checkout wait times, this allows Amazon to cut down on costs. Minimal staff may bring reduced prices to customers in the end. Add in shopping habit algorithms, which already exist, and you may receive self-catered coupons and sales. Quick shopping, lower prices, and personal deals? Sounds great!
Of course, to Luddites, doomsayers, and conspiracy theorists, this probably looks like their worst nightmare. Technology has reached the level where they can track your live shopping habits and other activities. If it’s not Big Brother watching you, or controlling your food intake, it’s the “deep learning” technologies. Pretty sure that sounds suspiciously like another form of tech people we’ve been warned against.
Of course, for every cautionary tale of robot Armageddon, there are some more sound concerns. The elimination of everyday jobs at these stores has some in an uproar. They perceive the automated store as a threat to the precarious state of employment in this country. Of course, this either might be a danger to the economy… or the start of a new direction.
Now, before you get excited (or dismayed) by this news, understand that Amazon Go is limited to Amazon employees and only available in Seattle. They currently only have one 1,800 square foot store in the city as a “beta” program, and it may take quite a while before the technology moves to the public and other urban areas (let alone the suburbs).
Still, this is the beginning of something strange and beautiful… that, or the rise of the machines.