Look Here, Alexa Has Eyes For You

Amazon took the lens cap off the Echo Look yesterday. It’s a hands-free, voice-activated camera that, as its introductory video indicates, helps wanna-be fashionistas choose the right outfit and make sure they’re looking good from all full-length angles. It also offers personalized advice based on the savvy of machine learning and “fashion specialists.”

Oh, and if what you’re seeing isn’t quite what you’re looking for, you can always ask Alexa to order a new wardrobe and have it shipped overnight.

“It costs $200, or $20 more than the original Echo device, and does all the same things the cheaper one does, with new additions,” writes Jason Del Ray for Recode. “People can view the photos Alexa snaps in an accompanying app and track what they’ve worn on which day. Photos and videos can also easily be shared to social networks, which may be attractive to Instagram power users.”



They also can solicit a critque through the Style Check feature that, according to Amazon, “keeps your look on point using advanced machine learning algorithms and advice from fashion specialists. Submit two photos for a second opinion on which outfit looks best on you based on fit, color, styling and current trends. Over time, these decisions get smarter through your feedback and input from our team of experienced fashion specialists.”

Anna Wintour is not likely to be one of them, but that’s about all we can say with any certainty.

“Amazon didn't share many details about the computers, or the humans, powering Echo Look,” reports Selena Larson for CNN Tech. “The company would not say whom its fashion specialists are, and whether they judge individuals directly or simply tell software what looks good. Amazon said the software was trained on a diverse set of individuals with different body types and skin tone, but did not elaborate further.”

As of now, you have to request an invitation to buy one.

There are, of course, privacy questions to be considered and/or thwarted. 

“Echo Look uses the same on-device keyword spotting as Echo, to detect the wake word and only the wake word,” an Amazon spokesperson tellsTechCrunch’s Brian Heater. “When the wake word is detected, the light ring turns blue to indicate that Alexa is streaming audio to the AWS cloud.”

But still, Heater concludes, “if I had one in my bedroom, I’d probably unplug it or throw a towel over the thing when it’s not in use. With Internet-connected cameras, you just never know.”

Initial reactions beyond the privacy issues are mixed. 

“Amazon has done a great job of making itself into a prime digital destination to do your errands. But it hasn’t quite established itself as a fashion authority yet, and Echo Look appears to be a bid to do that,” write Sarah Halzack and Hayley Tsukayama for the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. “And yet, it is hard to see how the device does much to help Amazon on this front, because its functionality would seem to appeal to such a narrow slice of women.” 

“Whether buyers will be happy installing what is essentially an Internet-connected smart camera in their bedrooms remains to be seen. But a system capable of taking full-length photos or short videos so people can get a 360-degree view of themselves should appeal to the selfie-obsessed hordes already populating social media,” writes Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian.

Indeed, “it's clear that Amazon knows its niche for this new product: In the era of the professional Instagram influencer, the Echo Look offers buyers a personal fashion photographer and, perhaps, the opportunity to up their fashion game,” points out Matt Weinberger for Business Insider.

But Instagram Influencer in Chief Mark Zuckerberg is one person who is unlikely to be saying, “Hey, Alexa, buy me one of those Echo Looks” anytime soon. That’s for a number of reasons but perhaps the most obvious is an answer he famously gave a room full of Facebook interns in 2011 after he was asked why he always wore the same grey t-shirt. 

“The whole room (including Mark Zuckerberg) cracked up, but he went on to say that he wears the same clothes every day because he's busy and it makes for one less thing to think about in the morning,” Neel Hajare, one of those interns, writes on Quora.

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