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The population of Seattle was 609 thousand in 2010, and the population now is 746 thousand. Much of the growth is accounted for by Amazon, which now has 40,000 employees in the city. We left for our family cruise to Alaska a day early to spend some time with a family member who lives in Seattle and works at Amazon. As we walked around the city, we saw construction everywhere. Much of it will be new Amazon buildings. By 2022, when construction is expected to be complete, Amazon could occupy about 12 million square feet of real estate in Seattle, which is more than 20% of the city’s current total office inventory, according to GeekWire. That square footage will be spread out among more than 40 buildings.

One of the building sites we toured was The Spheres, a place where employees can think and work differently surrounded by plants. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries. Not many urban offices have such a direct link to nature. 

Another building had an interesting physical collage on the lobby wall. It included 16 Kindles from the first one to the latest one. I think I have owned all of them (and later sold on eBay to upgrade to the newer one).


The most interesting building to me was the Amazon Go Store. As you enter, you open your Amazon Go app and let it be scanned at a turnstile. When you enter you see a very well organized, clean, and full store. One of the differences between a normal convenience store is the behind the scene kitchen which makes ready-to-eat food, and keeps the shelves shelves stocked with food, wine, and a large number of miscellaneous items.

What is most different is there are no check out lanes or cashiers. The Amazon Go store provides a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout. The experience is made possible by many of the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. I looked up at the ceiling and saw a maze of sensors, cameras, and other devices I did not recognize. Although I did not recognize all the devices on the ceiling, they recognized me. The scan on the way in tells the Amazon Go system I am in the store. If I pick up an item from a shelf, the item is automatically put in a virtual shopping card. If I change my mind and put it back, the system removes the items from my virtual cart. When I was finished shopping, I just walked out of the store. A little later, Amazon sends a receipt and makes the charge to my Amazon account. The Just Walk Out Shopping experience feels strange. If the technology becomes mainstream, I guess we will get used to it.

Watch the video to see a real Amazon Go store in action. See some pictures from Seattle here.