5 Things to Know About Amazon Go, the Company's Fully Automated Convenience Store

Stephen Brashear, Getty Images
Stephen Brashear, Getty Images

In Seattle, Amazon’s latest retail experiment is offering a whole new way to buy groceries. Launched on January 22, Amazon Go is a convenience store that requires no checkout whatsoever. It’s equipped with technology that can track which items you pick up—basic food items, pre-made meals and meal kits, booze, etc.—and automatically charge you through an app on your phone. You can be sure that if this pilot store is successful, you’ll see more Amazon Go stores roll out in other cities, too. Here are five things we know about the experience, according to The New York Times’s account of visiting.

1. YOU CAN’T GET IN WITHOUT THE APP.

The store doesn’t have a typical entrance. Instead of entering an open shopping space, visitors first have to pass through automatic gates that resemble the ones that you have to pass through to get into a subway station. To enter, you need to open up the Amazon Go app on your phone and scan your unique code. Once you’re in the store, Amazon’s AI will track the items you pick up and add them to your virtual cart, charging you for them when you leave.

2. YOU WON’T FIND ANY SHOPPING CARTS—OR LINES.

Because there’s no checkout, you don’t need a cart. Instead, you put your items into whatever bag you plan to carry them out in. Since the store is a convenience store, not a full supermarket (1800 square feet compared to the usual 42,000 or so of a grocery store), you probably won’t have so many purchases that you’d need a cart, anyway. And the lack of a checkout process means that you don’t have to wait in line to leave, either. All your purchases are being tracked in the app, so you just have to walk out the door. Amazon will send you an electronic receipt a few minutes after you leave.

3. HUNDREDS OF SMALL CAMERAS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING YOU.

Amazon is staying tight-lipped on how exactly the technology that it uses to track purchases works, but it involves sensors and hundreds of small cameras that can see everything happening in the store. “Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix,” according to the Times. The machine learning and computer vision it has developed can tell not just if you’ve picked an item off the shelf, but if you’ve put the item back and decided to purchase something else.

4. YOU MIGHT FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SHOPLIFTING.

There are very few retail experiences that allow you to simply pick up an item and walk out the door without handing anyone cash or a credit card, so making purchases at Amazon Go is likely to feel super weird for most of us. As you slip items into your bag and leave, you may feel like you’re shoplifting, the Times’s Nick Wingfield notes. But that doesn’t mean that you could get away with stealing something if you wanted to. Wingfield tried to trick the cameras by covering up a pack of soda before he took it off the shelf, but the cameras still managed to notice his purchase and charge him for it. A reporter for Ars Technica also tried to fool Amazon’s technology by picking multiple items up and putting them back in different places, but was unable to trip up the app’s shopping cart.

5. YOU’LL STILL SEE EMPLOYEES.

You may not need help checking out, but you may still need to interact with a human. If you want to buy alcohol, an employee waiting in the beer and wine section must check your ID before you can take that six-pack off the shelf. There are also various Amazon employees wandering around to help sort out technical issues and restock shelves, as well as chefs that you can watch prep meals in the kitchen.

But overall, you can easily get through an entire shopping trip without ever speaking to another human—or waiting in line.

[h/t The New York Times]

The World Health Organization Is Releasing a COVID-19 App to Combat Coronavirus Misinformation

WHO MyHealth is meant to help clear up misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus.
WHO MyHealth is meant to help clear up misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus.
MangoStar_Studio/iStock via Getty Images

As is the case with most crises, the novel coronavirus has become a breeding ground for misinformation. Because the disease is so new, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding it, but that hasn't stopped people from claiming to know how to treat, prevent, and detect COVID-19. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, the World Health Organization (WHO) is launching an app dedicated to sharing what we know and don't know about the virus, 9to5Google reports.

Named WHO MyHealth, the new app is a collaboration between former Google and Microsoft employees, WHO advisors and ambassadors, and other tech and health experts. Users will be able to compare their symptoms with those linked to COVID-19 and receive public health updates specific to their location. As of now, there are plans to invite people who have been either been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 to share their phone's location history to give experts a better idea of how the virus spreads.

WHO MyHealth, which is currently being built as open source, is set to roll out for Android and iOS on Monday, March 30. If you have questions about COVID-19 you need answered immediately, you can also access accurate and up-to-date information through the WHO's chatbot.

Any information regarding novel coronavirus should be met with skepticism when it can't be traced back to organizations like the WHO or the CDC—especially when it comes to supposed cures. No specific medication has been proven to treat or prevent COVID-19, so you shouldn't take advice from anyone claiming otherwise.

[h/t 9to5Google]

10 of the Most Popular Phone Chargers on Amazon

Anker/Yootech/Amazon
Anker/Yootech/Amazon

Smartphones are a daily necessity at this point, whether you're using them for work or socializing (or both at the same time). And with the countless hours people spend on their phones every week, the need to charge them quickly and on the go has only grown. We now need chargers in our homes, in our cars, at the office, and in our travel bags, just to give us enough juice to carry us through the day. To make sure you're never at 5 percent battery while answering important work emails or perusing Reddit, we've rounded up a list of 10 of the best-selling and top-rated phone chargers on Amazon, including solar-powered and wireless models.

1. Yootech Wireless Charger (4.3 stars); $12

wireless phone charger
Yootech/Amazon

This top-rated wireless charger is compatible with most recent smartphones and AirPod models—and you don’t even need to remove your phone case for it to work. Reviewers report that it can fully charge most phone models in two to four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Anker Wireless Charging Stand (4.5 stars); $19

wireless phone charging stand
Anker/Amazon

More than 4400 user reviews gave this wireless charger five stars, praising it for its value and reliability. Plus, the propped angle allows you to charge your phone both vertically and horizontally, letting you watch videos or scroll through social media without losing any battery.

Buy it: Amazon

3. BLAVOR Solar Charger Power Bank (4.5 stars); $47-$50

solar charger power bank
BLAVOR/Amazon

This solar-powered combination power bank/flashlight/compass is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts (or emergency preparedness devotees). Reviewers say that this charger holds an impressive amount of battery, able to charge two devices at once—with plenty of juice left to spare. Bring it on your next camping trip or keep it stored in an emergency kit.

Buy it: Amazon

4. BigBlue Foldable Solar Charger (4.3 stars); $85

foldable solar charger
BigBlue/Amazon

This lightweight foldable charger includes four weather-resistant solar panels that you can attach to a backpack so you can charge as you hike. While it’s pricier than the other items on this list, users say it packs a punch.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Anker Wall Charger (4.7 stars); $9

Anker wall phone charger
Anker/Amazon

This portable wall charger can accommodate two devices at one time, and user reviews praise this model for its simplicity and durability. Just remember to provide your own charging cable—because this product is compatible with several different device models, it doesn’t come with a cable of its own.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Anker PowerCore Portable Charger (4.5 stars); $46-$56

portable phone charger
Anker/Amazon

We’ve all had those moments where our phones are at 4 percent battery and there’s no outlet in sight. Prepare ahead with this portable charger from Anker, which can handle multiple devices on the go. This charger comes packed with a lot of power—Anker estimates that this device can give smartphones an extra 92 hours of battery life every time it’s recharged. This is exactly the type of charger you need in your bag if you're a commuter.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Anker Dual USB Car Charger (4.7 stars); $9-$12

dual USB car charger
Anker/Amazon

While more and more cars include built-in USB outlets to accommodate smartphones, those of us who drive older cars aren’t quite so lucky. But you can make up for that with this affordable high-speed car charger, which plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and powers multiple devices at once. This charger is compatible with just about any device, provided you have a cable to attach it to the USB port.

Buy it: Amazon

8. ZeeHoo Wireless Car Charger (4.3 stars); $40

wireless car charger phone mount
ZeeHoo/Amazon

This device does double duty as a phone charger and a car mount. It requires a bit of setup to attach this charger to your dashboard, but once that’s complete, your phone can act as a convenient, hands-free GPS while charging up.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Swaller iPhone 8 Plus/7 Plus Battery Case (4.2 stars); $37-$38

iPhone battery case
Swaller/Amazon

This portable charger can give your iPhone an extra 25 hours worth of battery if you’re in a bind. Plus, it’s convenient—you can charge both your phone and the wireless battery case simultaneously using the same charging cable. Have a newer model of iPhone? Swaller’s got you covered with a selection of other battery cases.

Buy it: Amazon

10. HETP Galaxy S8 Battery Case (4 stars); $30-$33

Samsung Galaxy S8 battery case
HETP/Amazon

If you’re not an Apple user at all, you might instead opt for this battery case that’s compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S8. As with Swaller’s iPhone case, you can charge both your phone and the battery case itself at the same time—there’s no need to remove the case in order to get a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER