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Amazon’s Cashier-less Grocery Store Officially Opens to the Public Today

by Davey Alba on January 22, 2018

SEATTLE, WA – A woman walks past the Amazon Go grocery store at the Amazon corporate headquarters on June 16, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.

David Ryder / Getty Images

Amazon’s cashier-less convenience store of the future is finally in the present. Over a year after it was announced and after a well-publicized delay, Amazon Go opened its doors to the public today, giving anyone in downtown Seattle access to 1,800 square feet of grocery staples including bread, milk and cheese, as well as pre-made snacks and fresh meals. You just walk in, grab the items you want on the shelf, and walk out — Amazon automatically charges you for the items after you leave the store, and you get an electronic receipt for your purchases.

Before today, the futuristic grocery store was available only to Amazon employees in a beta test. But now, the early reviews have started to roll in. The consensus so far? People who have tried it have said that walking out without going through a checkout line feels strangely like shoplifting.

Except it’s shoplifting that you usually can’t get away with. Here’s how it works: customers download a dedicated Amazon Go app and scan a QR code to go through a turnstile at the store. (This way, Amazon also knows exactly who is at its store at all times.) You need an Amazon login, but don’t need Prime — Amazon’s members-only subscription for premium services.

Then, once you’re in, a system of computer vision, AI, and a whole bunch of sensors working in tandem can detect each item you take down from the shelves, as well as whether you’ve put something back. The bill arrives once you’ve left the store, and if there are any mistakes, or you aren’t satisfied with one of your purchases, you can hit a “refund” button. (You don’t have to trek back to the store and return the item to get your money back.)

For Amazon, the existence of a cashier-less store makes a lot of sense as the online retailer pushes deeper into the worlds of both groceries, and brick and mortar stores. Last June, the company bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, in one of the tech industry’s most prominent acquisitions for 2017 — today, many Whole Foods’ “365 Everyday Value” products reportedly stock Amazon Go’s shelves. It’s also aggressively marketed Amazon Fresh, its online grocery shopping service, offering both pickup and delivery options in major cities. Go will also draw from Amazon's recent foray away from the web and into the physical world — the online retailer has about a dozen physical bookstores in places like New York, San Diego, Portland, and Boston.

While skipping the checkout line will likely take some getting used to, other questions are already surfacing about the commerce giant's convenience store of the future. Reports on Twitter Monday morning suggested that the company will not accept food stamps at the stores, raising concerns about exclusion (Amazon currently participates in a food stamp trial with other major grocery chains online). Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether it plans accept food stamps at its Go location. There are also some lingering questions about what an automated grocery store might mean for jobs.

For now, Amazon says the high-tech Amazon Go shopping experience does not mean humans will be losing their jobs to automation. The company says it will shift what would have been cashier jobs into other roles — for instance, it still needs human employees to restock its shelves, and it has reportedly stationed an employee in the beer and wine section of its store to check IDs before customers are allowed to purchase alcohol.

While Amazon will likely spend the next weeks and months ironing out logistical wrinkles, the biggest question facing the grocery store of the future remains an open one: what happens to all those jobs if and when the cashier-less store is no longer a novelty but just the way we shop now?

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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Facebook Says It’s Not Always Good For Democracy

by Pranav Dixit on January 22, 2018

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Facebook might not be good for democracy, the company admitted on Monday in a series of blog posts written by executives. The posts analyzed Facebook's impact on elections, politics, and misinformation, and acknowledged that the company had a long way to go.

With more than two billion users around the world, Facebook is the world’s largest social network. Lately it's faced harsh and continuing criticism for not doing enough to manage violent content, misinformation and fake news, which enabled Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

“Facebook was originally designed to connect friends and family — and it has excelled at that,” wrote Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement. “But as unprecedented numbers of people channel their political energy through this medium, it’s being used in unforeseen ways with societal repercussions that were never anticipated.” Chakrabarti added that Facebook was “far too slow” to recognise how foreign powers used its platform to meddle with the US presidential election in 2016. “We’re working diligently to neutralise these risks now,” he wrote.

Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath also acknowledged that the role of social media had changed. “From the Arab Spring to robust elections around the globe, social media seemed like a positive,” she wrote. “The last US presidential campaign changed that, with foreign interference that Facebook should have been quicker to identify to the rise of “fake news” and echo chambers.”

The posts come weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his annual personal challenge for 2018 would be tackling abuse, hate, and foreign interference on Facebook.

Although Facebook has focused on the United States so far, political actors, especially in developing countries, are already using the platform to spread propaganda and crush dissent. A BuzzFeed News report published on Sunday revealed how Cambodia's authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen used Facebook to both push his agenda and stifle free speech by targeting government critics.

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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