Amazon just officially announced its long rumored grocery store, and it actually looks pretty neat. The concept is that there’s no place to checkout. You just tap your phone on some sort of detector when you walk in and then walk out with your food. Once you’ve left, you are billed through your Amazon account.
It’s called Amazon Go, and the first store in Seattle is set to open to the public in early 2017. Right now you can only get in if you’re an Amazon employee or beta tester.
It’s unclear how exactly the technology works, and it seems like Amazon is trying not to say. It appears that the store seems to primarily focus on prepared food by in-house chefs, and that there might be an RFID chip on the packaging that talks to your phone. We’ve reached out to Amazon for some more details.
“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,” according to an Amazon press release. “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.”
The technology sure is cool, but you have to feel some slight anxiety over perpetuating class divide. After all, having an expensive smartphone shouldn’t be a requirement to enter a grocery store. You also have wonder exactly how well the technology works, because with every new technology there are bound to be bugs, and a software glitch may mean that some people get to walk off with some free artisan sandwiches. Of course, we’ll have to wait until the stores open to the smartphone owning masses to see how much disruption Jeff Bezos’ latest mad scientist idea inspires.