Audacious Fox

Mike Murphy, Quartz:

The online retailer is pitching the Echo Look as a fashion-forward device, meant to help you figure out what from your wardrobe suits you best every day. The device’s app ships with software called “Style Check,” which Amazon describes as “a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists,” that lets users compare two photos taken through the Look to decide which outfit is better.

Amazon wasn’t immediately available to confirm what sort of data it was training to build this software, and whether it would apply the same fashion sense for a customer in New York as it would in London or Hong Kong. It also didn’t respond to comment on who exactly designed the product, and whether it was something that was specifically designed for women (its advertising almost entirely comprises women), by women.

Even though Amazon doesn’t suggest specific rooms for Echo Look to reside in, it’s obviously a device intended for the bedroom, unless you want to be running out to your kitchen with each outfit change. To that end, an Echo with a “hands-free” camera, sitting in my bedroom 247 sounds horrifying creepy.

Additionally, sending Amazon full-length photos of yourself might reveal more personal information than you think. As pointed out on Twitter by Zeynep Tufekci, an associate sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, “With this data, Amazon won’t be able to just sell you clothes or judge you. It could analyze if you’re depressed or pregnant and much else.” A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.

So, if this isn’t targeted at the privacy conscious (or anyone who owns a mirror), who’s Echo Look for? The vain and indecisive? At first glance, I thought Echo Look seemed far more akin to the self-checkout stations that have permeated our grocery stores (imagine some form of Amazon’s “Style Check” in a department store’s changing rooms), but Amazon doesn’t augment brick-and-motar stores, it replaces them. With that in mind, I’m leaning towards a simpler explanation: Echo Look is Amazon’s latest experiment to see what sticks when it comes to in-home AI.

It was only a matter of time before the Echo gained a camera. Human personal assistants don’t do their jobs blindfolded. Still, Echo Look feels like a product that goes a step too far, too quickly, and without a clear picture of who its audience is.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017