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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Market at Towers to debut Amazon ‘Just Walk Out’ technology

The+entrance+of+the+newly+renovated+and+redesigned+Market+at+Towers+featuring+contactless+payment+technology.+
Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer
The entrance of the newly renovated and redesigned Market at Towers featuring contactless payment technology.

The shopping experience at The Market at Towers is rapidly changing as a direct result of artificial intelligence technology.

The University of Pittsburgh is one of the first universities to implement Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology. Matthew Sterne, vice chancellor of business services at Pitt, said in an article for Pittwire that it will make the shopping experience “more convenient.” 

“As one of the first universities in the United States to integrate Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology into its on-campus retail environment, Pitt is elevating the student experience by making shopping at The Market at Towers faster, easier and more convenient,” Sterne said. “This collaboration enhances our ongoing efforts to leverage innovative solutions to meet the evolving needs of our campus community.”

According to a PittWire article published earlier in August, the AI tracks what students take from or return to the shelves and creates a virtual shopping session. After shopping, students can simply leave the store — the Transact Mobile app will automatically deduct the total from their available campus funds, including Dining Dollars, Panther Funds and Pitt Cash. As of the beginning of the school year, the technology has been fully implemented and is in use in The Market.

Some students have reservations regarding the implementation of this type of AI technology. Caroline McCully, a sophomore supply chain major, said she would describe being tracked by an AI while shopping as “dystopian.”

“Obviously, security cameras do the same thing, so I guess it’s not that different but still, the thought of machine monitoring is weird,” McCully said. 

Other students are in favor of the switch to AI technology. Rohan Deepak, a sophomore bioengineering major, said he finds the technology “cool.”

“I like the idea of cutting down lines to make trips faster,” Deepak said. “It might not be super life changing, but it’s nice to have a place you can quickly drop by that’s near the center of campus for snacks or anything else I might need.”

Laura Newell-McLaughlin, executive vice president and general manager of integrated payments and campus commerce at Transact, said in the PittWire article that Transact is “excited” to work with Pitt and introduce Amazon’s technology to Pitt.

“Transact’s goal is to redefine the student experience by eliminating checkout lines and accelerating transaction speed,” Newell-McLaughlin said. “With the integration of Transact Mobile Ordering for store entry and payments, we’re taking significant strides in streamlining daily campus life for both students and faculty.”

Joel Turner, a sophomore double major in economics and history, said he is “fascinated” by the new technology in the Market.

“I had never heard of this technology before,” Turner said. “I was immediately impressed by the idea and curious to learn more about how it works. Though I miss seeing some familiar faces working at the Market, the new system is incredibly convenient for when I need to grab a quick drink or snack before class.”

Gabriella Papillo, a sophomore molecular biology major, said he feels that the Market was fine before. 

“The lines were never super long to begin with, and it won’t be as personal, which I don’t like,” Papillo said. 

Turner said he’s most excited by how individualized the shopping experience will now become. 

“Though the old one was nice and I liked its layout a bit more than this new one, I like how easily accessible this new market is,” Turner said. “Walk in, grab what you need, and walk out, it’s much more efficient this way.”

Papillo said she has reservations about how the Transact app will function in relation to this new technology. She is worried that the Transact app could crash and cause problems, since students must scan the Transact app to gain access to the Market at Towers.

“I think it could glitch and then you won’t be able to use the Market at all,” Papillo said. “There’s going to be problems with the Transact app crashing because too many people are using it.” 

According to the PittWire article, the new Market will use concepts such as computer vision and deep learning techniques to monitor what people are buying. Deepak said he “doesn’t think it will be too invasive.”

“In a small shopping place like the Market at Towers, it doesn’t feel too different from a cashier watching, so it feels pretty normal,” Deepak said.

Turner was hesitant about the new technology, but feels the increased use of AI is inevitable.

“I was worried about any flaws in the system, such as being charged inadvertently for things I didn’t buy,” Turner said. “But having been there a few times now, I feel much more secure about the technology and its accuracy. I’ve always been a proponent of AI, it’s best to accept it and our worries about it and work out the kinks later than to deny its going to have an impact on our lives.”

About the Contributor
Adrienne Cahillane, Senior Staff Writer