Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) showcased its cashier-less Amazon Go store in Seattle last year, giving the world a glimpse at the potential future of the retail store. It looks like the showcase posed a challenge to rival tech firm Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) because new reports suggest that the software giant is also working on a similar project.
Microsoft has reportedly poached a computer vision specialist that was involved in the development of Amazon Go. Sources claim that Microsoft is working on a project that will involve cashier-less shopping experiences. The ongoing experiment tracks items through cameras that are mounted on the shopping carts.
Unlike Amazon, Microsoft’s approach involves partnerships with retail companies to build automated checkouts that will be powered by the Microsoft Cloud services. Amazon currently dominates online retail but it has been planning on spreading its influence in the brick and mortar domain by launching its own stores. The sources which have remained anonymous told Reuters that Microsoft has been demonstrating the technology to retailers all over the world and that it has also engaged Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) about the possibility of working together on the project.
One of Microsoft’s main selling points with its new cashier-less retail project is that it will help retailers to keep up with Amazon Go. The latter is on track to launch in San Francisco and Chicago. It is a disruptive technology which analysts believe will soon become a trend, thus the need for retailers to be prepared.
Microsoft wants to compete indirectly with Amazon in retail
Microsoft’s involvement in such projects is advantageous for retailers. The company’s involvement in big partnerships in different industries in the past has proven to be good for business and its contribution to the retail market using an automated checkout system should be no different.
“This is the future of checking out for convenience and grocery stores,” stated Gene Munster, the executive in charge of a research at a Minneapolis firm called Loup Ventures.
Microsoft has not revealed how it plans to roll out automated checkout services to the retail market. In fact, there is no confirmation whether the company plans on making the project a reality but that is most likely going to be the case if it is working on teaming up with retail giants like Walmart.
From an operations standpoint, such a solutions would eliminate the need for cashiers, thus saving space and money that would have been used to pay cashiers. On the flip side, there are concerns about the possibility of such technology eliminating a lot of jobs, thus adding to the unemployment problem. It is also not clear whether shoppers want such technology.
Loup Ventures estimates that the automated checkout market in the U.S is worth roughly $50 billion. Meanwhile, cashier jobs are the most common jobs in the U.S. One thing that is clear is that artificial intelligence is rapidly changing the landscape for many industries and the retail sector is one of the industries that are on a collision path with API. Neither Walmart nor Microsoft has responded to requests for comments.