Amazon is expanding its real footprint with another unconventional physical product: a shopping cart. While it certainly looks like an aesthetic upgrade to your standard grocery cart, the Dash Cart, as it is called, is actually a smart version of the proven food transport vehicle.
It is equipped with a touch screen and other various hardware components to automatically detect the items you place inside and even the number of those items that you have removed from the shelf. When you have finished shopping, you are allowed to pass the cart through a special lane that checks you digitally without requiring a human cashier to call you.
The idea is based on Amazon’s approach of trying to take the convenience it masters in the digital domain and put it in the real world. For years, Amazon has been trying to apply all of the lessons learned from developing products powered by Alexa, including microwaves and wall clocks, and to establish a physical presence through its acquisition of Whole Foods and the network of growing Amazon Go stores. These efforts are now reflected in hybrid products that bridge the digital and physical, if only in small experimental bursts.
The Dash Cart arrives first at Amazon’s grocery store in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. The store, first confirmed last year, is not an Amazon Go store, which means it does not have cameras, sensors, and other equipment built into the ceiling to automatically detect items that you remove from the shelves. Instead, it’s your everyday grocery store, only it has smart grocery carts made by Amazon for you. The store is operational to fulfill online grocery orders, but the physical space is not yet open to the public; Amazon says it plans to open the store later this year. The store joins Amazon’s network of existing Whole Foods stores and its larger Amazon Go grocery store, which opened in Seattle in February.
It’s unclear why Amazon is opting for a more traditional store, given its more than two dozen Go stores and a second Go grocery store in the works in the Redmond, Washington area. On the one hand, the Go model may be difficult to scale to the size necessary for a full-service grocery store; the Go Grocery in Seattle is smaller, while the new location in Woodland Hills would be on the site of an old Toys “R” Us, which is certainly much larger. There’s also the issue of privacy, and whether the Go format tracking and monitoring approach may not be as acceptable as a smart shopping cart that a consumer should choose to use.
That said, it seems that scaling up its cashless approach, either from a confidentiality or technical point of view, is a challenge that Amazon is trying to overcome, and the basket is one way to do it in a small and manageable way. For now, Amazon isn’t ready to use Dash Cart technology beyond discreet grocery shopping. Thus, the device can manage up to about two bags of articles, but it cannot yet make a complete cart. This means that the Woodland Hills store will have standard carts and standard payment channels for all customers who buy more than the Dash Cart allows.
But other than that, Amazon’s Dilip Kumar, vice president of physical retail and technology, says The edge everything else is fair game, including products and other foods not contained in traditional packaging. ” [The Dash Cart] has a ring of cameras, a scale and computer vision and weight sensors to determine not only the item, but the quantity of the item, “he said. For an item such as an apple, the touch screen on the cart itself allows you to enter the item’s price search code before placing it in the basket to be weighed and added to your order .
The shopping cart processes your order at the end of the trip only because you first signed in to your Amazon account on your phone and scanned it at the start of the grocery trip. The shopping cart also has an integrated coupon scanner and supports Amazon’s Alexa shopping list feature. When you’re done shopping, Amazon says the dedicated dashboard cart lanes allow you to leave the store without having to pay or wait in a payment line.
Amazon doesn’t say if this cart will come out of the Woodland Hills store, as the company isn’t usually talking about new locations or even future plans for the physical expansion of its grocery store. But chances are, if the Dash Cart is a hit with consumers, Amazon could roll it out elsewhere. It is easy to see, for example, how such a device could work in a Whole Foods store and help reduce payment hours, although there may even be expectations to use the carts themselves, if it works as well as advertised.