Amazon has unveiled a brick-and-mortar shop dubbed “the store of the future.” The world’s leading online retailer opened Amazon Go to the public in Seattle today, promising a new experience completely free of check-out clerks.

In fact, you don’t really check out at all, thanks to what Amazon calls “Just Walk Out” technology. Customers simply check-in with a smartphone app, shop and then leave with their items. A system of cameras and sensors keeps track of everything in a “virtual cart” and bills the customer’s Amazon account. A receipt arrives by email.

NBC’s Today show got an early peek inside the store, which appears to be a grocery/convenience hybrid offering drinks, snacks and on-the-go meals, including some prepared by an in-house culinary team. Today reports the technology is “buggy,” especially when children start fiddling with products, but Amazon calls the system “highly accurate” with mistakes easily correctable through a simple return process.

It’s easy to assume the retail giant has an eye on placing the technology in its Whole Foods grocery empire, which was purchased for $13.7 billion last year. Amazon denies those plans are in motion and tells Today there aren’t even any current plans to expand with additional Amazon Go outlets.

That effectively leaves the location as a prototype for what’s possible in the future rather than what’s likely. The store is the first physical retail space for a company whose bread and butter is online shopping. It’s actually been open for a few years exclusively to Amazon employees as part of the company campus in Seattle’s Denny Triangle, a business district radically transformed by the arrival of the e-commerce king. The “Just Walk Out” technology was only recently introduced and now that Amazon Go is open to the public, will crowds flock to what Recode has dubbed “a high-tech version of a 7-Eleven” just to try it out?

That could be Amazon’s endgame — to merge shopping with tourism. If it proves successful, we may see those Whole Foods grocery stores redesigned sooner rather than later.


Photo credit: Amazon

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