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Amazon will soon offer its smart grocery carts to other retail stores

The company said its Dash Carts will be made available in third-party retailers beyond its Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market locations.
Amazon will soon offer its smart grocery carts to other retail stores
Posted at 8:43 PM, Apr 18, 2024

It's clear Amazon exists in a separate (grocery) lane from most of the marketplace, but it doesn't intend to stay that way.

The company said Tuesday it's begun expanding its Dash Cart to third-party grocers in addition to all of its Amazon Fresh Stores and select Whole Foods Market locations. 

For now, one McKeever's Market and four Price Chopper stores in the Kansas City area have started testing the checkout-free technology, making them the first grocers outside of Amazon and its affiliates — it acquired Whole Foods in 2017 — to do so. And Amazon plans to make the smart carts available in more stores soon, its blog post said.

Amazon first launched its Dash Cart in 2020 only in Amazon Fresh stores. Two years and a redesign later, it introduced the product to select Whole Foods locations, and now another two years later, it's adding more clients to its roster.

The company says the carts — along with its other checkout-free services like Just Walk Out and Amazon One — help make a customers' shopping experience "measurably better" using computer vision, sensor fusion and generative AI. 

These technologies allow customers to weigh and scan as they shop, showing a real-time receipt on a screen that includes all the items in the cart. The company said this particularly helps those who make big weekly shopping trips stick to their budget while offering them personalized shopping recommendations and maps to better navigate their store.

When the customer is done shopping, they leave the store through the Amazon Dash Cart lane, and their receipt should be in their email before they're finished loading the groceries in their car.

The simple process and impressive technology are the same the company used in its Just Walk Out service, which the company recently pulled from all of its U.S. Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market stores.

The cashierless-checkout technology allows customers to enter a store, grab what they need and walk out, charging them automatically upon exit using cameras and other sensors to tally up their items. It was first used in Amazon's Go stores before the company expanded it to third-party retailers like airports, sports stadiums and entertainment venues in 2020. 

It appears Amazon wants to put that service in a separate aisle from its carts — pun intended — with Dash Carts intended for larger grocery stores giving customers longer receipts, and Just Walk Out being used in small-format stores with "mission-driven" customers. 

Even though Amazon has reduced how many of its own stores use Just Walk Out, the company said in its blog post that the technology will be in more than double the number of third-party stores it's currently in by the end of the year. 

The expansion of both technologies comes weeks after reports circulated claiming Amazon's Just Walk Out was run by more than 1,000 people in India who watched videos to ensure checkouts were working properly, according to one claim from Gizmodo. 

Amazon clarified this in the recent post too, saying "machine learning algorithms" run the technology without "any specific knowledge about the person" but that humans do label and annotate "real shopping data."

"The erroneous reports that Just Walk Out technology relies on human reviewers watching from afar is untrue," the post read. "Associates don't watch live video of shoppers to generate receipts — that's taken care of automatically by the computer vision algorithms. This is no different than any other AI system that places a high value on accuracy, where human reviewers are common."

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