Would you like an internet enabled cantaloupe?
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
– Paul Simon, “The Boy in the Bubble”
In a move that was startling but makes perfect sense, Amazon purchased high-end grocer Whole Foods. If the acquisition goes through, Whole Foods will become an Amazon company by the end of 2017. If you remember the stunning Amazon Go concept video from last year—showing a store that has since become reality—you can guess where the future of grocery shopping is headed.
You can find in-depth explorations of the technologies they’re using, and the ramifications this will have on the retail industry. Brian Roemmele’s article is one of the more thorough and entertaining reads. The one sentence that should stick out for every engineer, though, is from Amazon’s website (emphasis mine):
Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.
On the surface, driving and grocery shopping don’t have much in common. Grocery shopping involves arranging thousands of small items. Driving involves one big vehicle. Grocery stores are stationary. Driving exists only to move you from one place to the other. They are disparate.
But the underlying technology from one of these can be adapted and applied to revolutionize an entirely different (and equally essential) industry. Of course, Amazon didn’t just take the self-driving tech stack and paste it into their Go storefront. They customized it, using insights and developments from the one to create a new internet enabled experience for the other.
Last year, most of the world didn’t even dream of a shopping experience like Amazon Go, much less think it possible. Last week, Amazon—already having proved that the concept works—bought a retail chain with 400 physical stores and an unmatched expertise in produce supply chains.
Today, it’s cars that recognize pedestrians and bananas with RFID chips. This is just one example of crossover tech synergy, and it’s barely step one. As the world changes, the demand for engineers and dreamers will only grow. Deep learning experts are about to the way we shop.
But the world has so many more puzzles just waiting to be solved. Renewable energy. Public health. The environment. Maybe even the journey into space so that humanity isn’t a one-planet species. These are all problems that the current generation of engineers will tackle. The solutions will be found, and they will, more often than not, come from the least expected places.
You should be among the inventors, discoverers, and thinkers who find these solutions.