Did Amazon just reveal the grocery store of the future? What happened to the check-out lanes?

It’s a Monday morning in December, and I just saw a glimpse of the future of grocery shopping.

A future where there are no check-out lines. Where sensors on the shelves can determine when you’ve picked up a product to buy but then change your mind and put it back. Where you scan your phone to walk into the store and then stroll out without interacting with a cashier.

People have been debating what the future of grocery stores looks like for a long time: Smart carts, digital coupons, smaller stores, bigger delivery sales, etc.

But I’m not sure any of us were prepared for what Amazon just announced.

Early next year, Amazon will open its premiere Amazon Go store at 2131 Seventh Ave. in downtown Seattle. From the video and an FAQ on the website, we know that you’ll have to scan your phone in order to get into the store, but once they know you’re there, the sensor technology in the shelves will know when you’ve picked up a product (or put it back) based on the proximity of your phone to the shelf.

(I have no idea what happens when the store is busy because the products themselves *probably* won’t have the sensors actually attached to them, but I could be wrong. Actually, I might be happy to be wrong on that one because it would require quite a bit of human labor to affix sensors to the thousands of products in the store, which would help offset some of the job losses that would come from not requiring cashiers.)

Without check-out lines, the new Amazon Go store that will open next year in Seattle uses sensor technology to determine when you’ve selected an item, and then you are charged for it after you walk out of the stores. Contributed by Amazon

The retail giant could have picked any kind of goods to sell at this debut 1,800-square-foot store, but they picked food. Why? Food is expensive to ship and it’s a product we often prefer to buy ourselves because we rely on our senses to help us make purchasing decisions. Plus, if you just want to buy a drink or a sandwich, you don’t necessarily want to buy it online for delivery.

The store has been in development for four years, and it will feature “ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks 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. You’ll find well-known brands we love, plus special finds we’re excited to introduce to customers. For a quick home-cooked dinner, pick up one of our chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits, with all the ingredients you need to make a meal for two in about 30 minutes.”

Yes, they’ve tapped into one more major food trend by making those meal kits available for purchase in the store, too.

It sounds like the store already open to Amazon employees in a beta program, but the company announced that the store would be open to the public in early 2017.

Is it crazy that I’m thinking about buying a plane ticket to Seattle just to check it out? Probably.

Am I crazy to think that this could be what the future of grocery shopping really looks like? Probably not.

Author: Addie Broyles

Food writer for the Austin American-Statesman and Austin360.com.

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