Technology

Instacart, Amazon Take Cashierless Checkout to the Major Leagues

Companies launch their grab-and-go tech at baseball stadiums in Boston and Houston
Instacart Caper Counter
Photograph courtesy of Instacart

Instacart and Amazon are bringing their tech to the major leagues. San Francisco-based Instacart, in partnership with Aramark Sports + Entertainment, this week unveiled its Caper Counter AI-powered point-of-sale system at Boston’s Fenway Park, one week after Seattle-based Amazon launched its Just Walk Out cashierless technology at two food and beverage stores in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Both efforts are aimed at offering a more-streamlined and seamless shopping experience for baseball fans, allowing them to get their snacks and drinks more easily so they can return to the game faster.  

Boston Red Sox fans will be able to use three Caper Counters for contact-free checkout at select areas around the Boston stadium, including at the Truly Terrace and Walk Thru Bru. Powered by AI, including computer vision and Sensor Fusion technology, the Caper Counter visually detects and identifies items based on their shape, color, key features and sizes. Customers place items for purchase on the Caper Counter—at Fenway items include packaged food and beverages, such as peanuts, soda, beer and candy—where they will be automatically detected and added to the cart for checkout. Customers then select “pay” and choose from either a credit card, loaded ticket or team rewards as their method of payment before going on their way.

"Nothing compares to the experience of attending a game in-person at the stadium, but we know fans increasingly want a more engaging, seamless and contact-free checkout experience. By helping to speed up the checkout experience, fans can spend less time buying their peanuts and beer and more time where they want—in the stands, cheering on their team,” Lindon Gao, VP of engineering for Instacart, said in a news release. “On average, Caper Counter decreases transaction times by approximately 65%. We’re excited to continue bridging the gap between in-store and online experiences through our omnichannel solutions and look forward to expanding our partnership with Aramark Sports + Entertainment in the future.”

Caper Counters, which are designed for retailers that have a smaller physical footprint and SKU count, are one example of the in-store technologies offered as a part of Instacart Platform, a suite of enterprise-grade technologies to enhance and digitize retail experiences.

Meanwhile, Astros fans can skip the checkout using Amazon’s Just Walk Out tech at Minute Maid Park’s 19th Hole store, located on the concourse level behind Section 156, and the Market store, located on the Honda Club level behind Section 211. Both stores offer a selection of snacks, soda, candy and ready-to-drink alcohol beverages, while the concourse-level store also offers prepackaged salads, wine bottles and souvenirs.

“Our technology is designed to deliver a fast and frictionless shopping experience, so we’re thrilled to help eliminate checkout lines for fans when they need to refuel during games and between innings,” Dilip Kumar, VP of physical retail and technology for Amazon, said in a release.

Fans visiting the Just Walk Out technology-enabled stores enter by inserting a credit card at the entry gates to shop. Once they’re inside, anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart. When they have completed their shopping experience, they can exit the store and the credit card they inserted will be charged for the items they took. Customers purchasing alcohol, however, will be required to show their ID to a store attendant for age verification.

This differs slightly from the Just Walk Out tech available at Amazon Fresh stores and a Whole Foods in Washington, D.C., in that customers at these traditional grocery stores can also enter by scanning a QR code in an app or their palm for Amazon One use.  

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