Apparently, Amazon is opening a grocery store in Seattle. Like, an actual store, with floors and a ceiling and walls and shelves and everything.
Many readers will likely not be familiar with the project, which is understandable given that Amazon itself has been very secretive about the whole thing. But here’s what we know.
It appears that there are two store types in development. One store, which doesn’t quite have a name yet, will be fairly small at 9,700 square feet. (Your average Whole Foods takes up 38,000 square feet, though many Whole Foods stores also have food courts.) It’ll be in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, where local bloggers have kept an eye on the work in progress, and will operate the way you’d expect an Amazon store would work: you order in advance, and pick up groceries there. There will also be an option to walk in, order on some tablets, and wait in a waiting room while your order is prepared. It will also have alcohol, USA Today reports, or at least Amazon hopes it will: the company applied for a retail liquor license. Basically, this store will look like an entry lobby. You won’t see groceries on shelves, you won’t be able to feel avocados for peak ripeness. It’s like Amazon’s delivery service without delivery.
The second store type is a bit weirder. This one is already operational, though Amazon says it’s “in beta” and only open to Amazon employees at the moment. Pictured above, it has a modern, Whole Foods, high-end grocery store feel. From Amazon’s site:
We offer delicious ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made fresh every day by our on-site chefs and favorite local kitchens and bakeries. Our selection of grocery essentials ranges from staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates.
What makes this one different is a technology Amazon is calling Amazon Go. Here’s the idea: this store will be fully outfitted with sensors on basically everything. Thanks to a smartphone app and probably a billion sensors and cameras, Amazon claims customers can simply simply walk in, wave your phone over a sensor to tell Amazon you’re shopping, grab whatever you want off the shelves, and just…walk out. The compay says it’s able to tell precisely what each customer buys, and charges the customer only for what that customer removes from the store. It might be best that Amazon hasn’t revealed exactly how this works, because it sure seems like it’d require an insane amount of surveillance and artificial intelligence.
So! Amazon will have grocery stores soon. And they are very Amazon-y.