Last March Amazon created a supermarket that pushed the boundaries of technology. The store, located in Seattle and called Amazon Go, is based on technology that allows customers to shop, but not wait in lines to pay. A customer uses the Amazon Go app to enter the store, choose the products they want and just walk out of the door.
The company explained that the checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. “Our Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt,” Amazon explained.
Just this week, there was a report in the New York Post that said not only will this concept move to more locations, there will be a far larger version of the high-tech store, with robots doing much of the work.
The report said that this supermarket might cover floor space of up to 40,000 square feet and, alongside the robots, be staffed by between three and 10 employees at any one time.
Such a location would comprise two floors, with the first floor offering around 4,000 “goods that shoppers typically like to touch [such as] fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, meats and cheeses, and grab-it-and-go stuff like beer and wine,” the source said. The second floor would have an army of robots picking and packing from a larger range of items — up to 20,000 different products – fulfilling online orders made by the shoppers downstairs or from people online at home who then drop by later to collect their items.
Staff responsibilities would include refilling shelves on the first floor, while there could also be someone on the door to greet customers, and to prevent theft. The greeters could also offer Prime membership or grocery-focused Prime Fresh service.
Trevor Mogg of Digital Trends said that if true, Amazon’s plan to automate the store with robots will come as little surprise to many observers. “The ecommerce giant has already invested heavily in robotic technology, which, like many big companies, it’s using to cut labor costs and improve efficiency. And no doubt you’ve heard of its delivery-by-drone plan, which will replace the need for human-made deliveries within about 10 miles of an Amazon fulfillment center … if that particular project ever comes to fruition,” Mogg said.
One large caveat to the New York Post report: Amazon says it's not true. “As we told the New York Post, we have no plans to build such a store and their story is incorrect," Aaron Toso, Amazon's corporate communications manager, told MH&L in a statement.
This article was originally published on Material Handling & Logistics, a companion site of IndustryWeek and part of Penton's Manufacturing & Supply Chain group.