Zach Steensma—Staff Writer
Imagine walking into a grocery store: You enter through the doors, list in hand, as you scan aisles and browse shelves in search of your items. You pick each item off the shelf, put it in your bag and walk out.
It all seems normal, and it is… except there are no cashiers, checkout lines or self-checkout stations to be found. You just walked out of the store without physically exchanging any money; and yet, you did not shoplift. This is the grocery store of the future, and you can now visit it.
Monday, Jan. 22, Amazon, Inc. opened their single-location “Amazon Go” store to the public for the first time since the experimental grocery outlet first opened to employees in late 2016. The Seattle store features an entirely checkout free system.
Customers walk in with their smartphones, using the “Amazon Go” app. Once inside, a tracking system, made up of a series of cameras and sensors, is able to determine which individual customers remove which items from the weight sensitive shelves, and then automatically charges any removed items to the customers’ Amazon accounts upon exiting the store.
As one might imagine, purchasing groceries from a robot store does not come without some technical difficulties. Amazon has spent the past year working out issues with the system to ensure customers can avoid accidental charges and unintended theft.
While the actual transactions are fully automated, there are still human employees who stock shelves and perform other tasks.
“It all sounds pretty cool. Really, this is just another step in the long history of humans replacing a task with machinery and technology,” said junior Daniel Seaman, former food service employee. “Plus, it’s not like there are no employees or jobs left in the store.”
Still, the system raises some eyebrows when it comes to tracking, privacy and—of course—the economic consequences of automation.
“Our growing dependence on technology is going to be a major issue going forward,” said junior Engineering major Adam Galloy. “People will need to adapt as jobs are replaced.”
There is little doubt that Amazon will continue to refine their system and open more stores in the future. Although no official numbers have been released as of yet, the opening of the store and the further development of the technology spells uncertainty for America’s cashiers and the future of shopping.