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If waiting in the checkout line at your local grocery store is the bane of your existence, we’ve got some excellent news for you. Amazon announced that it is working on a new kind of meal shopping experience called Amazon Go.
Amazon Go is “the world’s most advanced shopping technology,” its announcement page touts. It’s a new kind of store that uses your phone, your Amazon account, and a mix of computer vision, advanced sensors, and deep learning to make the experience literally grab-and-go. When you walk in the store, you scan a QR-type code on your phone. Then, you can browse the aisles and grab what you need. When you pick something up, it’s automatically added to your Amazon Go cart. When you leave the store with those items in hand, you’re charged for the purchase. You can get a better idea of how it works in the video below.
The store will offer ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, as well as snacks, all made by local eateries and onsite chefs. It will also include grocery staples (bread, milk, and the like), and chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits, which include all the supplies you need to whip up a two-person dinner in roughly half an hour.
Right now there is only one Amazon Go store, located in Seattle, and it’s only available to Amazon employees who are a part of the Amazon Go beta program. Amazon plans to open this store to the public in early 2017, but unfortunately for those of us who don’t live in the Seattle area, it’s unclear how, when, and where Amazon may expand Amazon Go after that.
We’ve definitely got some questions and concerns about the experience, as well. Being rooted in computer-vision technology, does that mean the store is outfitted with hundreds (or thousands) of cameras? What happens if you and a friend are shopping together and stay next to one another the whole time—could the purchased items be confused based on proximity? And what’s to stop someone from piggybacking behind someone else’s login at the store and snagging a meal for free?
And then there’s another issue: human jobs. Self-checkouts have been eroding away the grocery checkout person’s job for years now, but the proliferation of Amazon’s technology (which it calls a “Just Walk Out Shopping experience”) could be the final nail in the coffin. For unskilled or inexperienced workers, that’s one less job option available—and certainly this tech could be applied in all sorts of other types of retail environments, as well.
For convenience, Amazon Go sounds like a dream come true. But for the disgruntled masses already struggling to make a living in our rapidly modernizing world, this could be a major concern.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.