In Amazon’s vision of the future, the groceries we pick out are lovingly tallied by machines, allowing customers to just walk out the door when they have everything they want to buy.
But a French grocery store, Monoprix, has provided a similar service for years by leveraging vision, soft robotics, and their flagship technology: human intelligence. Customers just hand their carts full of groceries to a human cashier and walk out, leaving the human to ring up the items and arrange a home delivery. Instead of an autonomous vehicle delivering the food, another human drives a car and carries the groceries to the customer’s door.
Monoprix’s advertisement pokes fun at Amazon’s idealistic prototype of a store that could potentially upend the way the world physically buys items. Past the humor, it’s worth noting that Monoprix has a point—machines aren’t yet a good replacement for humans in complicated situations. While Amazon’s stores might be great for the typical shopping experience, what happens if a friend grabs an item for another friend, or a child takes items off a shelf? These simple situations might pose great challenges for rigid machines, but humans with innate awareness of shopping norms easily understand who should be charged for each item.
Human technology has been in beta for about 160,000 years, after a lengthy alpha testing process.