A report from Reuters suggests that Microsoft is looking to take on Amazon in the retail store space. Microsoft is reportedly working on technology that removes the need for cashiers and checkout lines in stores, similar to Amazon’s technology already implemented in its Amazon Go brick-and-mortar store.
According to the report, Microsoft’s technology tracks which items customers put into their carts. While it’s unclear how far along Microsoft is in developing this technology, the company has reportedly shown sample tech to potential partners and has even talked to Walmart about implementing it.
The exact technology used in Microsoft’s service isn’t explained, but it may be linked to the company’s new Kinect for Azure project. Detailed at Microsoft Build last month, this project builds on Kinect’s current abilities and includes integrated computing power and a sensor package with a depth-mapping camera. It can be used to execute spatial mapping and motion tracking, which could come in handy when tracking customers’ hands as they reach for items on shelves.
Microsoft’s store tech is designed to help retailers “keep pace” with Amazon as the online shopping giant dabbles more in brick-and-mortar endeavors. Specifically, retailers who may use Microsoft’s technology could better compete with Amazon Go, the company’s cashierless convenience store. The first Amazon Go store opened to the public in Seattle earlier this year, and Amazon is expected to open new locations in Chicago and San Francisco soon.
Amazon Go works like this: customers scan the Amazon Go mobile app at a turnstile before entering the store. They can then browse and put the items they want in their shopping bags. The built-in store technology tracks customers as they pick items up, put them back, or put them in their carts for purchase. When finished, customers can just walk out—Amazon bills the customer’s on-file credit card for the items they put in their bags as soon as the shopping trip is complete (i.e., when they leave the store).
Microsoft could make a lot of money by providing numerous retailers with the technology needed to make their stores as tech-savvy as Amazon Go. But Microsoft also wants to keep pace with Amazon in general as the two are constantly competing in cloud computing. Microsoft sits right behind Amazon in selling cloud services, some of which help run e-commerce sites and other services. As of now though, it’s unclear when Microsoft will roll out a final version of its checkout-free retail technology, or if the project will be scrapped completely.