Cameras > People?

January 19, 2021

I read an article yesterday announcing that Hudson (an American travel convenience store) is going to trial Amazon's 'Just Walk Out' shopping technology in a couple of airports.

It's fascinating to watch new technologies get trialled across different use cases - 'the technology is good, just find me customers that like it.'

This use case seems to make a lot of sense though. You've got a bunch (but not too many) customers who probably don't need to buy a lot of things, maybe some gum, water, snack, etc., quickly. They're not looking to browse, they likely know what they want and just want to get the thing and be done with it. Maybe replacing the human staff with cameras and turning the 'checkout' into a 'checkin' will work here?

The whole thing brings up experience questions about the role of people retail down the track. What happens when people are removed from the process of purchasing goods? Do I want to eat at a 3 hat restaurant without waiters? Do I want to run into the petrol station each time to pay for my fuel? What if I can't find the thing I'm looking for?

What is our relationship to retail? If we remove people from the whole equation, what is lost? What is gained? Are they equal trade offs?