Amazon Go, the supermarket with no checkouts, has opened to the public today for the first time. The store, which has been in testing for the past year, uses an array of cameras and machine learning technology to ensure nobody needs to pay for items themselves: instead their credit cards are billed for items automatically at a series of turnstiles located at the store’s entrance.
Amazon Go, which is separate from the Whole Foods brand it acquired last year for $13.7 billion, has been open to Amazon employees since December 2016. But its public unveiling has been slowed by issues regarding shoppers of different body sizes, and children moving items onto the wrong shelves.
Amazon claims it is not planning to use the technology in Whole Foods stores. The company, whose chief Jeff Bezos recently became the world’s richest person, already has 13 physical bookstores across the US, as well as several pop-up locations. It will not reveal whether the 1,800 square foot Amazon Go will become a chain or remain a one-off.
The store has raised questions about employment in the autonomous, AI future of retail: 3.5m people are currently employed as cashiers across America. Amazon says its staff will simply be reallocated to warehouse and other positions.
According to The Verge an Amazon Go store can be staffed by just three people. That has raised fears that, alongside driving jobs, roles in supermarkets could soon disappear. But as MIT associate professor Zeynep Ton writes in 2014 book The Good Jobs Strategy, “Even if self-checkout prevails, most of the work at retail stores will still be done by employees.”