Sensor technologies help Amazon open futuristic checkout-free stores

Amazon, the online retail giant, is currently testing a futuristic brick-and-mortar convenience store – Amazon Go – in Seattle where shoppers can simply walk in, pick the items they want, and walk out, without the need to checkout.

At Amazon Go, which took four years in the making and is expected to be launched by early 2017, everything a customer adds to a shopping basket is automatically charged to the customer’s Prime Account once he/she leaves the store. The system uses computer vision and deep learning, along with sensor fusion, to detect when goods are removed and returned to the shelves.

Located at 2131 7th Ave in Seattle, the futuristic 1,800-square-feet grocery store is currently open to the company’s employees during the beta program. Within the next decade, Amazon plans to open several more of these checkout-free stores.

In order to shop here, customers need to first install the Amazon Go app, login with their account, and then enter the store by scanning their phone on a sensor which would enable the sensor to recognize the customer. Apparently, the smart phone app will be able to communicate with the cash register using near field technology (NFC).

Similar to the Amazon Go app, Apple too had launched an app for the iPhone and iPad which allows customers to pay for items at its physical Apple Store without the need of a cash register. However, unlike Apple’s app, Amazon employs a system that does not require manually scanning goods at all.

Regarding its system, Amazon explains, “Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart.” It adds that once customers have completed shopping, they can simply leave the store, and Amazon will subsequently charge their account and send them a receipt.

The online retail giant had started experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores a few years ago. In November 2015, it had launched its first physical bookstore Amazon Books at the University Village in Seattle, and continues to establish pickup points at universities across the U.S. Similarly, AmazonFresh, its first grocery store in Seattle, became operational in 2007 and continues to provide features such as doorstep delivery of limited items in 16 U.S. markets such as Los Angeles, New York and Boston.

More information can be found at: Amazon.

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