The head of Amazon’s retail grocery division has admitted its physical stores are ditching a hyped technology that allowed people to just grab stuff and leave, with payment taken automatically.

Scott Bicheno

April 3, 2024

1 Min Read

Just Walk Out uses a combination of sensors and video to detect whenever an item was taken off a shelf. The shopper simply scans in with their Amazon account when they arrive at the store, grab what they want, and walk out. The billing process is completely automated. When we covered this three years ago it seemed potentially revolutionary.

But now Tony Hoggett, Amazon’s SVP of grocery stores, has told The Information that he’s giving up on the technology, in favour of some kind of smart shopping trolley system called Dash Cart. The latter seems like a minor upgrade on self-scanning systems that have been in place in England for years, in so much as the cart also has weight sensors and still does the automatic billing, but is far from revolutionary.

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The interview is paywalled but there’s plenty of reporting derived from it. Gizmodo refers to a previous The Information piece as the basis for its claim that Just Walk Out relied on over 1,000 people to watch shoppers as they walked around to double-check the sensors we accurately recording their activity. That account has been contested, however, and it seems more likely they reviewed the video after the shop to ensure accuracy of billing.

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Even so, that means the technology is far less automated than Amazon initially had us believe. Your correspondent tried out an Amazon Fresh store in London soon after it opened and, aside from the cultural adjustment hilariously satirised in the SNL skit below, found it performed more or less as advertised. However, the first world problems it solved were secondary to more mundane considerations such as choice and value for money.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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