SEATTLE – Call it Amazon.com's driverless store.
The tech giant has built a convenience store in downtown Seattle that deploys a gaggle of technologies similar to those used in self-driving cars to allow shoppers to come in, grab items and walk out without going through a register.
The 1,800-square-foot store, officially dubbed "Amazon Go," is the latest beach stormed in brick-and-mortar retail by the e-commerce giant, which already has bookstores and is working on secretive drive-through grocery locations.
It's clearly a sign that Amazon sees a big opportunity in revolutionizing the staid traditions of Main Street commerce.
In the much-longer term, if the experiment works out and is adopted widely, it could radically transform the nature of work in the retail industry, much like driverless car and truck technology threatens to upend transportation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a report this year that cashiers were the second largest occupation, with 3.5 million employed in the U.S.
The Amazon Go store in Seattle is open to Amazon employees participating in a testing program. It is expected to be open to the public in early 2017.
Amazon officials said that what makes the store tick is a combination of computer vision, sensors and machine learning that it calls "Just Walk Out technology."
It can tell, say, when a particular shopper picks up a carton of milk from a shelf, and puts it in that shopper's virtual cart.
It also can tell when an item is put back on the shelf — and removes it from the virtual cart accordingly.
Unlike self-serve registers, there is no need to stand in line or go through any register. Shoppers entering the store would call up the Amazon Go app and hold their smartphone to a scanner. Then they just pick their products and walk out.
Amazon charges them after they leave the store.
The store features ready-to-eat meals and snacks prepared by on-site chefs or local bakeries. There also are essentials such as bread and milk, as well as high-end cheese and chocolate.
Amazon plans to have well-known brands as well as "special finds we're excited to introduce to customers." That includes an "Amazon Meal Kit" that contains ingredients needed to make a meal for two in 30 minutes.