Welcome to the blog for Colgate University's interdisciplinary course on food. This is the place to keep up with what students in the course are experiencing in their work at Common Thread Community Farm and through their everyday encounters with food.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazon Go

Amazon has recently launched a beta of its newest product Amazon Go, which has been on their pipeline for the past four years.  Amazon Go is a grocery store that allows users to grab items and exit the store without dealing with cashiers, as the items are automatically charged to the shopper's amazon account upon exiting the store.  Amazon Go seems to be centered around ready to eat meals as well as snack options, which Amazon currently offers.      

The "Just Walk Out" technology is quite complex and relies on sensor fusion, computer vision and deep learning algorithms (which are similar to the technology in self driving cars), inside the store.  The concept requires that shoppers buzz in using the Amazon Go app on their iPhone or other smart phone when they walk into the store in order for the store to recognize the device and by proxy the user.  The technology is able to sense the price of the item as well as the item taken within the store.  From the preview, the technology looks amazing as it allows users to grab and go when they're in a rush.  Furthermore, anything you pick up inside the store is added to your virtual cart, and can be removed from cart if you put it back on the shelf. 

The Amazon Go store is expected to be released in early 2017 in Seattle Washington.  Although, Amazon is clearly the biggest participant in the self-checkout market, it may not be the first to market.  Y-combinator startups Selfycart and Instacart have both announced intentions to create an Amazon Go type store.  From the Beta release, it is clear that Amazon is pivoting their brand into the retail sphere, with the release of Amazon Books earlier this year.         

I think this definitely relates to our class discussion as we talked about how the layout of supermarkets is carefully organized in the beginning of the semester.  It will be interesting if these futuristic stores may require a new layout in order to maximize profits.  Furthermore, as discussed in class, while Amazon Go sounds incredibly innovative, there may be some drawbacks to the new technology.  First and foremost, it will leave a substantial amount of cashiers unemployed as there will be no need for them in the future store.  Additionally, it may be difficult or expensive to implement and may be defective in the early stages.  However, at the very least it's a creative idea that could help both retailers and consumers alike.  With Amazon Go "you're not shoplifting, you're just shopping in the future"


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