Amazon uses remote workers from India to power its 'Just Walk Out' AI technology in stores

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Amazon's 'Just Walk Out' technology, which promises a seamless shopping experience by eliminating the need for checkout lines, was initially hailed as a breakthrough innovation leveraging advanced AI and sensor technology. However, according to a recent report by The Information, behind the scenes, the system is not entirely dependent on AI, but heavily on low-wage workers, especially in India.

The Human Element: Outsourcing to Indian Workers

Introduced in 2018, the 'Just Walk Out' system allowed customers to enter Amazon Fresh stores, pick up the items they wanted to buy and leave without the need to check out. The technology is meant to track customers' choices using a network of cameras and sensors throughout the store. However, instead of relying solely on this advanced technology, Amazon employs 1,000 workers in India to manually track customers' purchases.

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These outsourcing workers are tasked with remotely monitoring customers' movements in stores and compiling data on the items they select. The practice has raised concerns about job cuts and exploitation of low-wage workers in India, as the company chooses to outsource these tasks rather than invest in local employment opportunities.

Furthermore, the report highlighted significant inefficiencies in the process, with outsourced workers taking hours to compile the data needed to generate receipts for customers. As a result, Amazon has decided to phase out the 'Just Walk Out' technology from its Amazon Fresh stores, citing its increasingly time-consuming nature.

In its place, Amazon plans to introduce smart carts that allow customers to bypass traditional checkout lines while providing real-time visibility into their spending. According to Amazon spokeswoman Carly Golden, the shift is intended to address customer feedback, offering the convenience of skipping checkout lines while ensuring transparency around receipts and savings.

While Amazon's 'just walk out' technology promises a futuristic shopping experience, its reliance on manual labor underscores the challenges and limitations of fully automated solutions. As the retail landscape continues to evolve, striking a balance between technological innovation and ethical labor practices is pressing for industry leaders like Amazon.

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