Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ Technology Is an Illusion

Maxwell Zeff, Gizmodo:

Just over half of Amazon Fresh stores are equipped with Just Walk Out. The technology allows customers to skip checkout altogether by scanning a QR code when they enter the store. Though it seemed completely automated, Just Walk Out relied on more than 1,000 people in India watching and labeling videos to ensure accurate checkouts. The cashiers were simply moved off-site, and they watched you as you shopped.

Zeff says, paraphrasing the Information’s reporting, that 70% of sales needed human review as of 2022, though Amazon says that is inaccurate.

Based on this story and reporting from the Associated Press, it sounds like Amazon is only ending Just Walk Out support in its own stores. According to the AP and Amazon’s customer website and retailer marketing page, several other stores will still use a technology it continues to say works by using “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning”.

How is this not basically a scam? It certainly feels that way: if I was sold this ostensibly automated feat of technology, I would feel cheated by Amazon if it was mostly possible because someone was watching a live camera feed and making manual corrections. If the Information’s reporting is correct, only 30% of transactions are as magically automated as Amazon claims. However, Amazon told Gizmodo that only a “small minority” of transactions need human review today — but, then again, Amazon has marketed this whole thing from jump as though it is just computers figuring it all out.

Amazon says it will be replacing Just Walk Out with its smart shopping cart. Just like those from Instacart, it will show personalized ads on a cart’s screen.