Amazon drops ‘just walk out’ technology at its US retail locations

“The biggest challenge is just the novelty of it,” he said. “How do you get people to want to integrate it into their day?”

Moreover, Arcaro added, third parties adopting highly novel technology like “just walk out” face considerable up-front costs in implementing such a system, including the required cameras, back-end computing devices, and weighted shelving. In businesses like grocery stores, which tend to have thin margins already, such a capital outlay often doesn’t make economic sense.

“It’s untenable for a lot of companies — even Amazon and their deep pockets,” he said. “Maybe as the technology matures and gets better from an AI perspective and better-optimized for lower-cost processors.”

Such a system poses regulatory risks as well, not least the issue of tobacco and alcohol sales. “Just walk out” and similar systems need buy-in from stakeholders in government at every level in order to successfully integrate into daily life, Arcaro noted.

“You’re having to work with constituents in small towns who see it as a labor replacement — which it is,” he said.

A more gradual approach to automating retail locations, according to Arcaro, may be a more productive way forward. An ecosystem of automated checkouts and related technology already exists, and has made gains in the industry, offering a more gradual — and economically tenable — pathway. Barriers to entry are likely to shrink over time as well.

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