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Is Microsoft building checkout-less store technology to take on Amazon Go?

By Trevor Mogg

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Microsoft is developing technology for checkout-less stores similar to Amazon Go, and the computer giant is also in talks with Walmart about a possible partnership.

The revelation comes via a Reuters report, which said that a team of between 10 and 15 Microsoft engineers has been working on developing technology capable of tracking what shoppers put into their bags as they make their way around a store. One of the team members is reportedly a computer vision specialist hired from Amazon Go.

Amazon opened its first “grab-and-go” store in Seattle in January, with new ones expected to be opening soon in Chicago and San Francisco.

Like Amazon Go, Microsoft’s technology would track shoppers as they make their way around a store, automatically processing customer selections. When they’re done, they can walk straight out of the store without stopping by a checkout, with the payment taking place automatically online.

Multiple sources claiming to have knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Microsoft is already showing its in-store technology to retailers around the world, suggesting that it’s already well advanced.

Part of Microsoft’s setup apparently involves cameras attached to shopping carts that would monitor a shopper’s selections as they move around the store.

Amazon Go uses an array of cameras, sensors, and artificial intelligence technology to track each item that a customer places in their bag. It’s so clever that it even knows when you put an item back on the shelf, should you change your mind during your shop.

Reuters’ report noted that there’s no known launch date for Microsoft’s technology, adding that there’s a chance it might not even see the light of day. Current challenges include making it not only fail-safe but also cheap enough that retailers will actually want to use it.

It’s not clear if Microsoft’s system is confined to the shopping cart or requires additional sensors around the store, but the need to make it cost effective suggests it’s working on a platform that’s less complex than Amazon’s.

Walmart Go?

Soon after Amazon embarked on its ambitious project to build a delivery drone platform, Walmart revealed its own plans for a similar system. With that in mind, it’s little surprise that the retail giant is now believed to be in talks with Microsoft as it apparently eyes the launch of its own checkout-less stores.

But if Microsoft is able to create an effective technology, it could potentially sell it to multiple retailers, enabling it to take on Amazon and transform the way we shop at brick-and-mortar stores.

Amusingly, many Amazon Go shoppers have been commenting on how the experience leaves them feeling a bit like a shoplifter. Find out how it went for Digital Trends when we visitedthe first-ever Amazon Gostore in Seattle soon after it opened.

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