Japan to introduce unmanned AI convenience store in spring 2020

A trial artificial intelligence convenience store at Akabane train station in Japan. Customers shop at the unmanned store and enter and pay using their transport card.

As artificial intelligence and technology slowly invade our lives, it is only natural that more jobs are being replaced by computers. Not only can manpower costs be cut, they are also a lot more efficient and easy to implement. Japan has been one of the countries spearheading such technology. This time, they are going to bring about an AI-managed convenience store.

The concept of this unmanned convenience store is simple: first, you tap your transport card to enter, much like when you enter a train station’s gantry. Then, you do your shopping and take the items you want. With information from cameras and the likes, when you stand at the checkout area, the touch panel will show the list of goods and the total cost. Lastly, you confirm your order by tapping your transport card for payment.

This video of a similar trial store in Akabane station shows how such an automated convenience store works:

Operated by Touch To Go, a joint venture between JR East Start Up and Signpost Corporation, this smart store with the same name will be implemented on the second floor beyond the gantry at Takanawa Gateway station. It is a new train station scheduled to open next spring along the Yamanote Line, one of the busiest and most important railway lines in Tokyo.

Apparently, this is not the first time Touch To Go has been implemented. Previously, it was also tested in Omiya station in 2017 and Akabane station in 2018.

In time for the summer Olympics, Touch To Go will begin operations next spring, 6am to 12am every day. Selling about 600 types of goods often seen in convenience stores, such as bento, snacks and drinks, Touch To Go will be adding more modes of payment eventually, like credit cards and digital money.