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HomeResourceAmazon's supermarket of the future could be run by robots

Amazon’s supermarket of the future could be run by robots

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The future of grocery shopping sounds like being trapped in an Amazon fulfillment center. Sources “briefed on the plans” leaked the prototype for a “supermarket-sized version” of Amazon’s supermarket grocery store that’s currently being tested in Seattle. The idea is for a 10,000- to 40,000-square-foot store devoted to “goods that shoppers typically like to touch,” whatever that means exactly. Where it gets wild, according to the Post, is that the shopping experience would be facilitated by “a staff of robots on the floor upstairs” that “grabs and bags items for shoppers below.”

A claw-crane army looming overhead sounds like it’d do the opposite of helping customers “touch” goods, but the point, regardless, is to cut down on labor costs. These stores would operate with a maximum of ten employees at a given time and would reportedly only need three. The Post reiterates that this is just a prototype (and, in fact, Amazon claims, “We have no plans to build such a store”), but the hypothetical jobs doled out to humans sound like they could be automated pretty quickly as well:

A manager’s duties would include signing up customers for the “Amazon Fresh” grocery service. Another worker would restock shelves, and still another two would be stationed at “drive-thru” windows for customers picking up their groceries, fast-food style.

The last pair would work upstairs, helping the robots bag groceries to be sent down to customers on “dumbwaiter”-like conveyors, a source said.

dumbwaiter”-like conveyors Amazon's supermarket

The prototype also doesn’t call for any cashiers. It might, however, employ “greeters” that could serve as curbs against shoplifting—a key hazard for thinly staffed stores—in addition to using high-tech motion sensors to track wayward goods.

According to the Post, Amazon might do a Costco-style setup that bars entry to anyone who’s not a Prime member because “people who can afford Prime memberships aren’t likely to shoplift.” Stores could stock as many as 15,000 items in their upstairs storage area, everything from fresh produce, dairy, and meat to paper towels and wine. Supposedly, Amazon is even considering adding a pharmacy in order to “break into the lucrative sector” of pharmaceutical sales.

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