It’s been a little over a year since Amazon used this video to announce its store of the future, the Amazon Go store. It’s the retail equivalent of a concept car.

As you enter the store you identify yourself by using your phone to show the Amazon app to scanner on a gate and then you’re done consciously interacting with the technology or people. You pick up what you want, put it in your bag and go. Amazon automatically charges you for what you’ve taken.

scanning smartphone

There are no chips on the food. Visual sensors track what a person takes.

During the year-plus of development, with a prototype store open only for employees, Amazon has worked through many issues. What if two people come in together, one scans, they both take items and leave? What about taking three items from the shelf and putting two back? What if a bunch of people enter dressed as Pikachus – as Amazon employees did in an attempt to fool they system. (They failed; the system worked.)

Today the first store in Seattle is opening to the general public.

Amazon hasn’t said what it plans to do with the technology. The first store is small, only 1,800 square feet, and they could open many mini-marts around the country. They could scale it up to supermarket size and start using it in Whole foods. It could be sold to other retailers, as Amazon sells its Amazon Web Services (AWS).

shopping in Amazon Go store

Would it work in a bookstore? Other types of stores?

Amazon knows that faster ecommerce websites attract more customers, and are betting that’s the case with online newspaper sites, too. No doubt a quick shopping experience will attract many people to retail stores, too. It’s all about a superior customer experience.

Once again Amazon is miles ahead of the competition, even though they gave them a 14 month warning.

Photos from New York Times article.