Amazon Go's Mechanical Turk

The Mechanical Turk was a mechanical chess playing machine from the late 1700s that could beat even skilled human opponents. However, it was actually a hoax and the Turk was controlled by a human operator.

You may have heard of the Amazon Go stores, which are cashierless. It is pretty remarkable. You simply pick want you want off the shelves and walk out the door. The bill goes straight to your Amazon account. I didn’t use it a lot, but it seemed to work fine. I tried to fool it once by picking up an item and returning it to the shelf in a different location, but it worked perfectly.
It supposedly worked on a system of optics and scales to know what you selected.
But in reality…

Though it seemed completely automated, Just Walk Out relied on more than 1,000 people in India watching and labeling videos to ensure accurate checkouts. The cashiers were simply moved off-site, and they watched you as you shopped.

I always wondered why the scale up was so slow. Now I know.


Hudson stores in the airport now has “Just walk out” stores. To go in you have to insert your credit card, then you go into the store, walk around and take the “stuff” you want. All while sensors and cameras monitor you. Then when you walk out it charges your card. Kind of creepy though. Both times I went by one I didn’t see anyone in the store where there used to be a few people in them.