Amazon Abandons Grocery Stores Where You Just Walk Out With Stuff After It Turns Out Its “AI” Was Powered by 1,000 Human Contractors

Amazon Abandons Grocery Stores Where You Just Walk Out With Stuff After It Turns Out Its “AI” Was Powered by 1,000 Human Contractors

Amazon Abandons Grocery Stores Where You Just Walk Out With Stuff After It Turns Out Its “AI” Was Powered by 1,000 Human Contractors

It was all smoke and mirrors.

Just Walked Away

Amazon is giving up with its unusual “Just Walk Out” technology, The Information reports, which allowed customers to simply put their shopping into their bags and leave the store without having to get in line at the checkout.

The tech, which was only available at half of the e-commerce giant’s Amazon Fresh stores, used a host of cameras and sensors to track what shoppers left the store with. But instead of closing the technological loop with pure automation and AI, the company also had to rely on an army of over 1,000 workers in India, who were acting as remote cashiers.

In other words, Just Walk Out — a highly invasive marketing ploy to get more customers to shop at its stores while actively undercutting the local job market — will be missed by few.

Dystopian Retail

Instead of Just Walk Out, Amazon is now betting on scanners and screens embedded in the shopping cart called Dash Carts.

The tech they’re replacing, however, was far more ambitious. In 2018, Amazon started rolling out its Just Walk Out system, which was meant to revolutionize the retail experience with AI, worldwide. Several other companies, including Walmart, followed suit by announcing similar cashier-less stores.

But over five years later, the system has seemingly become more of a burden. According to The Information, the tech was simply far too slow and too expensive to implement, with outsourced cashiers reportedly taking hours to send back data so customers could get their receipts.

Apart from relying on cheap, outsourced labor instead of paying fair wages locally, critics have also long questioned Amazon’s practice of collecting a horde of sensitive data, including customers’ in-store behavior, turning a quick visit to the store into a privacy nightmare.

Last year, the consumer advocacy group Surveillance Technology Oversight Project filed a class action lawsuit against Amazon, accusing the company of failing to inform customers that it was secretly selling data to Starbucks for profit.

Despite its aggressive push into the retail market, Amazon’s grocery store footprint in the US is still dwarfed by those of its competitors, including Walmart, Costco, and Kroger, as Gizmodo points out.

Whether Dash Carts will turn out to be any less invasive from a data privacy standpoint remains to be seen.

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