Amazon Denies 'Ditching' Just Walk Out Technology

April 9, 2024
Amazon has denied reports that it plans to “ditch” Just Walk Out, saying that it will continue to deploy its autonomous checkout technology in certain US and UK stores, while transitioning to another system in large US supermarkets.

Amazon has denied reports that it plans to “ditch” Just Walk Out, saying that it will continue to deploy its autonomous checkout technology in certain US and UK stores, while transitioning to another system in large US supermarkets.

In an interview last week with The Information, Tony Hoggett, Amazon’s head of grocery stores, said that Just Walk Out would be replaced in some stores with Amazon Dash Cart, a smart shopping technology.

After a flurry of global headlines that suggested Just Walk Out would be “scrapped”, an Amazon spokesperson has told Vixio that the technology will be replaced only in 27 Amazon Fresh supermarkets in the US.

This will bring these stores into line with the other 17 Amazon Fresh locations in the US, which already use Dash Cart exclusively.

Meanwhile, Just Walk Out will continue to be used at Amazon Go convenience stores and at Amazon Fresh supermarkets in the UK, which are typically smaller than those in the US.

“We’ve heard from customers that while they enjoyed the benefit of skipping the checkout line with Just Walk Out, they also wanted the ability to easily find nearby products and deals, view their receipt as they shop, and know how much money they saved while shopping throughout the store,” the spokesperson said.

“To deliver even more convenience to our customers, we’re rolling out Amazon Dash Cart, our smart-shopping carts, which allow customers all these benefits, including skipping the checkout line.”

Finally, Amazon will continue to license Just Walk Out to more than 130 third-party retailers, with plans to add more partner users in future, the spokesperson said.

How autonomous is Just Walk Out?

As news of the changes spread, so too did the claim that Just Walk Out is not actually autonomous, but relies on human reviewers to ensure that customers are billed correctly for each item.

The source of this claim was another article from The Information, published last year, which noted that Just Walk Out is supervised by a team of more than 1,000 engineers in India.

Speaking to Vixio, a spokesperson for Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it is “misleading and inaccurate” to say that Just Walk Out “relies” on human reviewers watching shoppers live from India.

“As with many AI systems, the underlying machine learning model is continuously improved by generating synthetic data and annotating actual video data,” the spokesperson said.

“Our associates validate a small portion of shopping visits by reviewing recorded video clips to ensure that our systems are performing at our high bar for accuracy.

“This is made possible because we continuously improve both our algorithms and use human input to correct them.”

Just Walk Out is powered by a network of in-store cameras and shelf sensors that monitor shoppers and log which items they pick up, and then charge them automatically as they exit the store.

One of the teething pains that has been widely reported by users of Just Walk Out is that receipts can sometimes be delayed for hours, leaving customers unsure of how much they have spent. Less frequently, customers have reported being billed for the wrong items.

Richard Crone of Crone Consulting, an independent payments advisory based in California, has been among the first to try out Amazon’s new payments technology, both during testing and as a mystery shopper.

Speaking to Vixio, Crone said that Amazon's response confirms that human intervention is required to fine-tune and advance the accuracy of the Just Walk Out algorithms, but this does not indicate that Just Walk Out is being “abandoned” due to technical shortcomings.

“Instead, Dash Cart deployments will be used to refine and enhance the algorithms, aligning the ceiling cameras and shelf sensors with the Dash Carts' sensors,” he said.

“This strategic move aims to reduce the need for human validation, thereby improving the accuracy of Just Walk Out with less manual intervention.”

While Just Walk Out is transitioned in favour of Dash Cart, he added that Just Walk Out infrastructure will continue to be used to calibrate and improve the accuracy of Dash Cart. 

Putting the cart before the app

Over the weekend, Crone has been testing out Dash Cart at Amazon Fresh locations in Southern California, and has shared his footage of the technology in action with Vixio.

In Crone’s view, one of the key benefits of the Dash Cart and its tablet screen is that it serves as an interaction point for AI-driven engagement and promotions.

“This setup mimics an in-store version of how Amazon generates a significant portion of its online sales through recommendations, boosting revenue from slotting fees,” he said.

He also said that analysing in-store customer interactions through Dash Cart will allow for better use of journey mapping, eye gaze tracking and dwell time data collected by cameras and shelf sensors.

Each of these data streams can then be combined with stock keeping unit (SKU) data to enhance the effectiveness of slotting and trade promotions, which make up Amazon's second-largest source of revenue.

“The shift to Dash Cart, driven by customer demand for real-time access to product information, ‘savings’ and their shopping receipt, underscores this strategy,” he said.

“The killer app is the real-time view of the receipt, tagged with ‘people who bought this also bought x’ recommendations. This is funded profitably by slotting and trade promotions from product manufacturers stocking the shelves.”



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