In Brief
  • Amazon's 1,800 square foot retail space in Seattle has no checkout lanes — customers simply choose the items they want and are automatically charged when they leave the store.
  • Expected to open to the public early in 2017, the store is another example of how AI and machine learning are taking over many jobs once held by humans.

Shop and Go

Ever race another grocery shopper to get to the shortest checkout line or put an item back just so you could hit the 15 items or fewer line? Amazon believes you won’t need to do any of that in the grocery stores of the future. In fact, the company thinks those stores won’t have any checkout counters at all.

The company is bringing their vision for the future to life with Amazon Go, an aptly named smart store where you can just take anything from the shelves and leave. The store is powered by sensors, deep learning artificial intelligence (AI), and computer vision, which allows it to detect which items a customer has selected and even when products are returned to shelves.

To start their shopping experience, the customer just needs to download the Amazon Go app on their smartphone. They swipe the app upon entering the building, and after walking out of the store, the shopper’s Amazon account is charged for the items and a receipt is sent to the app.

Currently, Amazon Go is in its beta phase, available only to the company’s employees. The 167 square meter (1,800 square foot) retail space is located in Seattle, and the company expects the grocery store to open to the public early in 2017.

The AI Labor Force

Amazon Go has no checkout lines, no registers, and no cashiers. It’s a sneak peek at what some experts deem the inevitable future in which artificially intelligent devices take over many of our jobs.

A report from tech analyst Forrester claims that AI will have the biggest impact in the fields of transportation, logistics, customer service, and consumer services, and Amazon Go falls into the majority of those categories. When quick-learning, pattern-reading machines can execute repetitive work perfectly each time, how will a human worker compete?

White collar workers shouldn’t be so quick to scoff at the labor force takeover. A study from IT researchers proved the increasing possibility that even doctors, lawyers, and accountants could easily be replaced by AI. Machine learning algorithms could settle disputes without the need of lawyers, and the WebMD network already gets more hits per month than there are visits to all the doctors in the United States, so people are prepped to get their medical advice from machines.

The reliability of advanced technology has truly changed human living forever. Amazon Go is yet another testament to the very near, and very different, future ahead.