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From Go to go bigger, Amazon bringing cashierless ‘Just Walk Out’ tech

From Go to go bigger, Amazon bringing cashierless ‘Just Walk Out’ tech
The Whole Foods Market in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood where Amazon is headquartered. (GeekWire File Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Amazon is bringing more of its technology to Whole Foods Market, announcing Wednesday that the “Just Walk Out” cashierless experience first introduced at Amazon Go convenience stores will now start to roll out at the larger chain.

Amazon said the option to skip the checkout line is coming to Whole Foods stores in Washington, D.C., and Sherman Oaks, Calif., starting next year.

The technology relies on an array of cameras and sensors to track what shoppers are selecting and is currently in use at more than two dozens Go stores as well as several Amazon Fresh stores in the U.S. and the U.K. The technology in a larger-scale grocery store turned into a tourist attraction when a new Fresh location opened in Bellevue, Wash., this summer.

The first Amazon Go opened in Seattle in January 2018. Amazon Go VP of Technology Dilip Kumar told GeekWire at the time that the idea was to “push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning” to create an “effortless experience for customers.”

Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go vice president of technology, scans the QR code on his Amazon Go app to gain entry to the first Go store in 2018. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Kumar said Wednesday that after three years, customer feedback shows shoppers “love being able to quickly and easily shop and skip the checkout line.”

After acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Amazon dramatically expanded its physical retail footprint and its push into the grocery space. In the time since, Amazon has introduced a number of its Prime membership benefits and other innovations at the stores.

RELATED: A welcome interloper? Amazon Fresh opens in Seattle’s historic and changing Central District

There are approximately 500 Whole Stores and Amazon would only say “we’ll go from there” as to whether “Just Walk Out” would ripple across the chain after the initial two stores.

Amazon says it expanded its computer vision algorithms to support Whole Foods’ grocery selections. Customers using the tech can enter a store by scanning the QR code in the Whole Foods Market or Amazon app; hovering their palm using Amazon One; or inserting a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account.

Customers will shop like normal and before exiting scan or insert their entry method again. Those shoppers will receive a digital receipt in the Whole Foods app.

Self-checkout lanes will still be available at the two stores for shoppers skipping the “Just Walk Out” method.

Update, Wednesday, 4:15 p.m. PT: United Food and Commercial Workers President Marc Perrone said in a statement Wednesday that Amazon was bringing its “ruthless anti-worker playbook, pushing automation at all costs” to Whole Foods and that essential workers and their families would pay the price.

Perrone called “Just Walk Out” tech a “job-killing cashierless technology.”

Amazon said in its blog post that the two Whole Foods stores introducing the tech will “employ a comparable number of Team Members as existing Whole Foods Market stores of similar sizes.” How Team Members in the store spend their time is “simply shifting,” Amazon said, “allowing them to spend even more time interacting with customers and delivering a great shopping experience.”

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