What is it?
Amazon Go ( bit.ly/amazongo423) is a real-life grocery store that allows you to walk in, take any item you want from the shelves and then leave without passing through a checkout. It sounds worryingly akin to shoplifting, but the idea is that you pay for your goods via an app on your phone. This speeds up the shopping process by eliminating queues and freeing you from the usual faff of placing your goods into a basket, taking them out again to be scanned and repacking them into shopping bags.
What does Amazon Go sell?
Anything from staples such as bread, milk and cheese to drinks, easy-to-prepare meals and treats such as pastries and chocolates. The first Go store in Seattle has been trading solely to Amazon employees since December, with items stocked in a 1,800ft2 (167m2) space. But it’s still in a beta-testing phase and the public opening – originally pencilled in for the end of March – has been delayed.
Why does Amazon want a slice of the grocery market?
Analysts are unsure why Amazon wants to enter an industry in which many established companies are making a loss. They are just as baffled about why it wants a bricks-and-mortar presence when it has spent years undermining the high street with its successful online business. Yet the expansion of its brand and desire to reach into all aspects of our spending is hard for Amazon to resist.
How does Amazon Go work?
As a customer, the first thing you need to do is install the free Amazon Go app, which is linked with your Amazon account. As you walk into the store, you’ll be asked to open the app to call up a QR code and hold your phone next to a scanning device. This tells Amazon that you are in the shop and ready to browse the aisles. You can then grab items and carry them or place them in your own bag. Amazon works out what you’ve taken and adds it to your virtual shopping basket. Once you’ve walked out of the store, it will create the overall bill, debit your account and send you a receipt.
What’s the technology behind it?
Amazon hasn’t divulged the exact details of how it works out what you’re buying. It does, however, say it uses a combination of advanced machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence, similar to the tech found in self-driving cars. As such, experts suggest Amazon’s computers are hooked up to a series of cameras around the store. These make a note of two things in particular: the items being taken off the shelves and the person doing the taking. This is a complicated process since the system needs to distinguish between a cheap bottle of water and an expensive bottle of Champagne, for example. But that’s where AI and deep learning come into play, looking for particular image features and correcting errors so that the right items at the correct prices are added to your bill.
Scan as you shop
Some Tesco supermarkets offer a portable scanner that you use to scan barcodes of items as you shop. You can then head to the till, pay, pack your shopping and leave.
Using your mobile
A company called Diebold Nixdorf, which provides self-service products to retailers, is looking at ways for customers to use their phones to scan items as they shop. Sainsbury’s has trialled a similar system called Mobile Scan & Go.
Pay a virtual waiter
When you get your restaurant bill, you can pay without flagging down a waiter. Apps such as Flypay and Cake let you pay on your phone, while restaurants including Pizza Express have bill-settling features in their apps.
You can buy all manner of exciting items with Amazon Go, such as salad
This customer has clearly nailed how to use the Amazon Go app