Is Microsoft developing Amazon Go-like tech for cashier-free stores?

Microsoft is supposedly copying Amazon Go by developing a similar technology, according to a new report from Reuters. The company is working on technology that could power cashier-free retail stores, and it’s been talking to Walmart about using the technology, which would allow Walmart to better rival Amazon’s Amazon Go project. Amazon launched its check-out less convenience store in Seattle last year. It essentially allows shoppers to grab their items and leave, and then the store charges their Amazon accounts.

The store is outfitted with equipment often used in autonomous cars, including multiple cameras as well as sensors that rely on computer vision algorithms to determine what items people are picking up and taking out of the store. While Amazon Go got off to a slow, buggy start, it is now expanding to Chicago and San Francisco. Meanwhile, Microsoft has poached a computer vision expert from Amazon Go. Microsoft is considering adding cameras to shopping carts in order to better track items.

Reuters doesn’t mention what else Microsoft is using for its sensors, though we suspect it involves Project Kinect for Azure, the fourth-generation of which was recently unveiled. Microsoft has been developing its Kinect sensors for years, and an Amazon Go-like store seems like a natural next step for the initiative. Keep in mind Recode claimed six months ago that Walmart is developing a cashier-less store on its own.

The effort is reportedly dubbed Project Kepler, and it is being led by Jet.com co-founder and CTO Mike Hanrahan (Walmart acquired Jet.com in 2016).

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