Wednesday, 17 October 2018 | News today: 0

Amazon opens a supermarket with no checkouts

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In a move that could revolutionise the way we buy groceries, Amazon has opened a supermarket with no checkout operators or self-service tills, BBC reports.

Long queues formed outside the Amazon Go store in Seattle before it opened its doors to the public on Monday.

It uses hundreds of ceiling-mounted cameras and electronic sensors to identify each customer and track the items they select.

Purchases are billed to customers’ credit cards when they leave the store.

On entering the store, shoppers walk through gates similar to those in the London underground, swiping their smartphones loaded with the Amazon Go app.

Then they are free to put any of the sandwiches, salads, drinks and biscuits on the shelves straight into their shopping bags.

There’s no need for a trolley or basket, since you won’t be unpacking it again at the till. In fact, unless you need to be ID-checked for an alcohol purchase, there’s also no need for any human interaction at all.

With the help of sensors on the shelves, items are added to customers’ Amazon Go account as they pick them up – and delete any they put back. An electronic receipt is issued as they exit.

The store opened to employees of the online retail giant in December 2016 and had been expected to allow the public in more quickly.

But there were some teething problems with correctly identifying shoppers of similar body types – and children moving items to the wrong places on shelves, according to an Amazon insider.

Gianna Puerini, head of Amazon Go, said the store had operated well during the test phase: “This technology didn’t exist – it was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.”

Grab-and-go shopping has been the “future of retail” for some time now.

But now Amazon believes its time has come – or at least that it is ready for real-world testing.

They’re calling it “Just walk out” and while they won’t spill the beans on just how it works, they say it uses “computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion, much like you’d find in a self-driving car”.

You scan a QR code as you enter. After that, your phone can go back in your pocket.

Hundreds of infra-red ceiling cameras have been trained (with Amazon employees as guinea pigs) over the past year to differentiate between customers as they move around the store, and between items for sale, even those with similar appearances, such as different flavours of the same canned drink.

There are weight sensors on the shelves to help indicate if an item has been taken or put back. And some items carry a visual dot code, like a bar code, to help cameras identify them.

Amazon isn’t offering any information on how accurate the system is.

However, one journalist attempted to shoplift some cans of soft drink – but the system spotted it and added them on his bill.