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Amazon’s futuristic grocery store still needs humans—to check your ID
In December Amazon introduced its idea for the convenience store of the future: Amazon Go. Testing as a pilot exclusive to Amazon employees in Seattle, Amazon Go is a small grocery store outfitted with ready-made breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options, as well as grocery staples such as milk and bread. What brings it into the 21st century is its lack of human checkouts—or checkout lines altogether. However, as it turns out, it will still need a few human employees.
Amazon plans to sell beer and wine at its Seattle store, and to do that, it will need human employees to check IDs, Recode reports. Amazon confirmed that Amazon associates will be on site to verify buyers are 21 and up after the store’s liquor license is approved. This store will open to the public in early 2017.
Amazon Go is outfitted with a variety of sensors and cameras which use computer vision and deep learning algorithms to tell what items you’ve picked up, placed in your bag, and decided to purchase. You’ll scan a QR-style code on your phone when you enter the store, shop as usual, and then walk through some sensor-filled turnstiles as you leave, which will confirm what items you bought and charge your Amazon account accordingly.
It’s unclear at what point in this checkout-less experience that an Amazon employee would check your ID if you grab some beer or wine. Perhaps, Costco-style, you’ll have to show your ID before you enter the beer cave.
Amazon’s prototype store is one of the latest examples of how robots and AI are starting to creep in on “low level” jobs. However, it seems that TSA agents, bouncers, and other ID checkers won’t be replaced by machines anytime soon—or at least until ID verification is replaced by biometric scans.
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.