Amazon's Smart Convenience Store Has Scary Implications
Amazon is opening its first "Amazon Go," a brick-and-mortar convenience store, to the public in Seattle today. Using machine learning vision, the pilot store promises to make swinging by the corner for milk as frictionless as possible, and to make standing in the checkout line a thing of the past. But it's not all upsides.Stuff like this gets accepted because of the convenience factor. Make some big brother surveillance situation look convenient and the masses automatically or gradually accept it. I guarantee this is going to be at Whole Foods really soon.
Amazon Go works using advanced machine learning tech the company has already showcased in demonstration videos. After shoppers scan themselves in with an app-generated QR code, cameras all around the store pipe live footage into a robot brain sophisticated enough to recognize items as they are pulled off the shelves and match them to shoppers as they walk around the premises. Instead of heading through a formalized checkout when you're done, you simply leave the store, and the robot bills you for what you have in hand.
The ease of use is a clear benefit to shoppers, and the smaller staff headcount and automatic security implications are an even bigger boon to store-owners, but these advantages come at a cost. A similar demonstration of this sort of technology from Microsoft last year illustrates particularly clearly how the uncritical embrace of machine vision could lead to a privacy-free future, creating a searchable index of anything anyone does within its view. The full development of this kind of dystopia is likely years away, but the gradual, unregulated acceptance of machine-vision surveillance in exchange for convenience is a necessary first step.
Amazon's Smart Convenience Store Has Some Scary Implications | Popular Mechanics