By Dan Moren
April 26, 2017 8:46 AM PT
Amazon’s new Echo Look has a hands-free camera
Well, didn’t see this coming.1 Amazon has added a new device to its Echo line-up, but it’s not (as has been rumored) an Echo with a screen. Rather, the company’s new Echo Look has a built-in hands-free camera that’s capable of shooting both stills and video, all in pursuit of helping you pick the right wardrobe.
In addition to all the usual Alexa features, you can tell the Echo Look to take a photo or a video, and the result will pop up in the Echo Look companion app on your phone, letting you tell whether the outfit you’ve got on works. A depth of field effect—à la the iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode—blurs the background and brings you and your outfit into the foreground. Short videos let you spin around to see yourself from all angles.
There are a couple other related features in the Look: one is the ability to build a lookbook that lets you scroll back through a log of all the outfits you’ve worn and snapped pictures of, letting you find favorites, dispose of ones you don’t wear much, and, I guess help make sure you don’t wear the same thing every day? The other is a more interactive Style Check, which Amazon says combines machine learning with advice from fashion specialists: snap photos of yourself in two different outfits, submit them, and you’ll get advice as to which works better based on fit, current trends, and more. (As with many machine learning algorithms, it supposedly gets better the more you use it.)2
So, what’s in this for Amazon? Well, if you thought to yourself “hey, seems like a great way for Amazon to sell you clothes” then you win a prize. Amazon says “Echo Look helps you discover new brands and styles inspired by your lookbook,” so presumably it can comb through the pictures you’ve taken (with your permission, I would hope) and use algorithms to figure out what other clothes you might want, based on your fashion choices. Then, of course, you’ll be able to order those clothes from your phone via the Amazon app. (Update: It seems you can’t order things via voice from the Echo Look—all purchases must be done via the Amazon app on your phone.)
Basically, the Echo Look is a smart, connected take on an old classic: the mirror. It’s an intriguing move, but one that easily computes with Amazon’s core mission of selling stuff—in some ways, even more clearly than with the original Echo. But what this and other recent developments (like Amazon’s new Lex conversation framework3) tell us is that Amazon is developing Alexa and the Echo into a platform for a variety of different solutions. It would not surprise me to see that rumored screen-based Echo appear as a kitchen-specific device, for example.
It’s also hard not to see this as a product targeted largely, though not exclusively, towards women. I would hardly be surprised if Amazon’s analytics say that its existing products have sold predominantly to men; aiming to bolster sales by aiming at an underserved segment of the market is a smart move. But that can also be a tricky proposition to navigate, so we’ll have to see how it plays out.
Personally, even as an Echo aficionado, the Look isn’t for me. Until last year the only mirror in my apartment was in the bathroom. I mean, come on: I’m a freelance writer who works from home. I don’t need a computer to tell me which pair of sweatpants is more comfy, right?
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