Behind the Screen: How 1,000 Indians Power Amazon’s Automatic Recognition Tool

In the United States, Amazon has a network of convenience stores called Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go. One of the brand's promises is a real-time recognition system, to make checkout optional (the cameras know what you have taken) . This system, which would actually be managed by humans in India, will come to a halt.

“Just Walk Out” is the name of a revolutionary technology invented by Amazon, which can be found in its Amazon Fresh stores and which other brands can acquire (even if few have expressed interest). Its concept is quite simple: forget the checkouts, the customer is followed by artificial intelligence which automatically bills the Amazon account when they leave the store, by watching what they take and what they put back.


After several months of pause, Amazon is giving up its technology in the United States (only the United Kingdom is keeping it, for the moment). According to The Information, the company will focus on a more traditional shopping experience. For good reason, Just Walk Out was not as magical as advertised.

1,000 operators in India

Technically speaking, Just Walk Out is not a scam. There is indeed artificial intelligence behind this system, which uses cameras to track customers. Amazon also scans shoppers' hands when they enter, in order to link tracking of their movements to the corresponding account.

The problem is that Just Walk Out is not always reliable, leading Amazon to check the work of its software. For several months, it has been rumored that 1,000 employees in India are accessing camera feeds in real time and correcting the machine. That's a lot for a system supposed to replace cashiers.

There is a difference between presentation and reality.
There is a difference between presentation and reality. // Source: Amazon

Direct consequence on the customer experience: receipts take hours to arrive, since auditors cannot monitor everything live. A checkout with a screen or employees goes faster.


The end of super-automation?

What future for physical stores? If Amazon will surely abandon the idea of ​​an AI that monitors purchases (especially since there are privacy problems with such a system), the company does not intend to return to human cashiers. . She made what she calls “Dash Cart”, a kind of connected shopping cart. It monitors the products placed by the customer and allows you to skip the checkout. It's less ambitious, but undoubtedly more effective.

The Amazon Dash Cart shopping cart.The Amazon Dash Cart shopping cart.
The Amazon Dash Cart shopping cart. // Source : Amazon

In France, Amazon does not operate any physical stores (the company bought the Whole Foods network in the United States, in addition to its own Go and Go stores). It could nevertheless offer its connected shopping carts to distribution giants, since they too have been innovating on this aspect for several years.