Amazon Go, my first impressions

Jan 23, 2018 · 650 words · 4 minutes read amazon

Amazon Go has finally opened up, just over 2 years after the original announcement of the checkout free grocery shopping experience. While there were delays in opening it amazon has done an amazing job at creating this, I was able to go down to their only location at 7th and Blanchard in downtown Seattle and give it a test drive today, so here are my initial thoughts.

The Good

Getting in is as simple as opening an app on your phone and scanning a QR code (or some similar barcode technology). While I can’t speak to bringing in guests my understanding is they just scan the same QR code as you when they go through the turnstile.

Unsurprisingly with how much testing this has been getting, everything worked flawlessly. Even with a few attempts to trick/break their system to either get it to charge me for extra stuff or miss charging me for stuff I picked up. I tried picking up multiple things at the same time, putting stuff back, and various other ways of hiding what I was doing but Amazon had packed in enough sensors to pick up all my tricks. I also have had the first hand experience of talking with a development manager who told me his team attempts to break Amazon Go weekly so it has gotten a-lot of attention in order to make sure that it works perfectly.

Finally just a note is that they have an area for you to eat if you get some prepared food so that’s a nice afterthought.

The Bad

While this likely isn’t going to be a normal situation past the opening week or so, there was a line to get in which kind of defeats the purpose of not having to wait in line to pay. I won’t hold it against Amazon as it was after all their first day and this has been hyped for a few years now, but the line when I got there was about 10 minutes long.

Unfortunately it’s pretty small, not all that surprising but it’s basically a 711 with the essentials packed in there, so don’t expect to go there during the holidays to get your turkey or ham, it doesn’t have the space. On top of being small there can only be around 90 people in it at a time (including employees) which actually seems like a high number to me given the floor space.

The Ugly

There’s very little I can complain about however the massive amount of data that they are processing in real time to allow lets say 80 shoppers at once to grab what they want and walk out without needing a cashier is astonishing. What I don’t know because I haven’t read up on that is what Amazon plans to do with this data as it could be useful for data mining for advertisers, for example if they know you’re looking at something they could tailor an ad specifically for you in real time in theory. It wouldn’t be the first time that an ad was created in the real world for specific groups of people in real time but it probably be the first time that it could be based on the actual individual based on their shopping habits.

Some of the sensors in the store

Ⓒ 2018 Sean Smith


Amazon Go is an amazing store, and while I don’t imagine I’ll shop there too often just due to the fact that it’s not in a convenient location for me to get to, it seems to be created on some solid technology, and with Amazon’s cloud compute power if they were to create more locations they could probably scale up as needed relatively easily. And if you don’t 100% remember what they promised here’s the original YouTube video for the announcement, and to be honest, they actually did deliver what they advertised.