The mind-blowing opening of a futuristic grocery store dubbed “Amazon Go” in Seattle catapulted robotics into the spotlight last November. Fast-forward to April, and a smaller prototype is showing up around the nation — albeit on a smaller scale. A recent stroll through the hidden space in New York City showed a demonstration of some of the features of Amazon Go, as well as some of the food items available.
While the Amazon Go store isn’t ready for everyone quite yet, visitors to the prototype got a glimpse of what their shop could look like down the road. In addition to a huge Amazon Go sign that clearly denotes what products are available, you’ll find stand-alone cash registers with touchscreens that offer details about what you have purchased and which items you’re allowed to put back.
The lower aisle in the smaller, 2,000-square-foot New York location will house beverages, snacks, coffee and other grocery items. When it opens for full service, it will likely have a similar layout.
Under the hood, Amazon Go utilizes machine learning algorithms to detect what items have been taken from the store and also other objects — so, as an example, a robotic arm that has spotted a burger wrapper won’t just dump the item in its cart. Instead, it will use the burger wrapper as a learning opportunity for the camera inside, where it can determine the location of other similar containers.
“To make this really work, we have to give the camera basic pictures of what things are. Then the camera can look for the most related items,” Alexa Vu, vice president of product for Amazon Go, told Business Insider. “It can look for items that are similar to one another, or items that are in the same product range.”
When the Amazon Go machine finishes analyzing the image, it’ll send information to another part of the machine, which stores the information. The information will then be sent to a third-party cloud service, where it will be analyzed by machine learning algorithms. This will help the machine to distinguish between whether it’s talking to someone or your belongings, and will let it know when an item should be taken out of the store.
While the larger store opens for business in Seattle in November, the smaller version won’t be opening up until later this year.