Amazon’s new futuristic convenience store feels a lot like shoplifting

Amazon’s new futuristic convenience store feels a lot like shoplifting

CultureFebruary 01, 2018 By Will Brendza

Almost all technological innovation is borne from some desire to make life easier, longer or more comfortable. A century ago that meant using steam to powerboat engines, or later designing machines to pick fruit. Today it means developing artificial robot muscles for prosthetic limbs or engineering self-driving cars to deliver goods.

Amazon is pushing this yet another step further, however, worming their techno-tentacles even deeper into the way the planet operates. With its futuristic new convenience store in Seattle, Amazon Go is now a … go.

Last month, they finally opened the controversial store up to the public — sounding much like a grocery shopping experience straight out of Black Mirror.

To shop, customers can only gain access to the store by scanning the Amazon Go app on their phone via rotating gates at the front. No app, no entry. Once inside, you’re free to shop to your heart’s delight. Stuff your shopping bag full of food, drinks, alcohol and whatever else strikes your fancy. When you’re finished, simply walk out.

.It might feel a little like shoplifting. No check-out lines, no cashiers, no swiping of credit cards or exchanging of cash. Just grab what you want and GTFO.

“I used one of Amazon's orange shopping bags," says CNN’s Heather Kelly. “But you can also shove the items directly into your own pockets or purse. There's the brief sensation of feeling like you got away with something, but then Amazon sends a push notification about your receipt.”

How it all works is nothing short of frightening … though also super convenient.

An army of cameras hangs like bats from the ceiling, keeping tabs on every inch and every item in the store. Amazon uses sophisticated computer vision and high-tech machine learning software to record when an item goes into a customer’s bag, or when it comes out. Try and steal something, and it will see you, and charge your account for the item(s) as you leave.

The system is revolutionary. If it becomes popularized, it will streamline shopping substantially. Don’t have time to wait in that rush-hour grocery checkout line? You won’t have to — there isn’t one. Forgot your wallet at home? Don’t worry, you don’t need it.

But the idea isn’t without its drawbacks.

There are an estimated 3.5 million cashiers employed in the United States. That is 3.5 million Americans who would face the prospects of robotic replacement and unemployment. And now that Amazon owns Whole Foods, they have the perfect platform to air this system nationwide in little time.

Beyond that, in a traditional retail or grocery setting, shoplifters who get caught face serious consequences — tickets, fines, jail time. The system in place at Amazon Go reduces those consequences, and might encourage people to try and beat the system, just to beat the system — foil the technology somehow, steal yourself some goodies, and if you get caught, who cares? It’ll just charge your Amazon account.

This new technology is groundbreaking. And it inches us a little closer to some effortless, utopian society looming on our horizon. How will that bode for mankind? Only time can tell.

It really depends on what life becomes when everything is automated but life itself.