Amazon Echo Look: Do people really want an Amazon camera in their bedroom?

First we had the Amazon Echo. Then we had the Echo Tap, and the Echo Dot. 

Now we have another twist on the Amazon Echo, and it puts an Amazon linked camera in your house -- most likely your bedroom, actually. But what can it do, and will its benefits outweigh its potential concerns?

In IT Blogwatch, we say cheese.

So what is going on? Matt Sebra has some background: about to add [another version of] Amazon's latest home-of-the-future invention, the Echo's an Echo that...comes with a voice-activated camera...[and] it was made to help you dress better.

Ok, but how does it do that? Ben Fox Rubin fills us in:

The $200 gadget uses its depth-sensing camera and LED lights for style selfies and fashion advice...people take full-length photos and videos of their outfits using just their voices, so they can more easily compare looks and share their fashion pictures with friends.

But how does it work? Valentina Palladino has the details:

It's a long, pill-like camera with a base so you can stand it up on a shelf or stick it to a wall. Inside is a...5-megapixel camera and an LED light that you control by saying "Alexa, take a photo" or "Alexa, take a video"...there's also one physical button on the side of the Echo Look that electronically disconnects the camera and mics. The camera...will only come on when awakened by an "Alexa" command. The photos and videos you take with Echo Look are instantly uploaded to the new Echo Look app (and stored in Amazon's Cloud) where you can share them on social media and build a wardrobe photo-book.

Before we get into what people think of the product, does it do anything else? Lisa Eadicicco is in the know:

Amazon's new Echo Look will work with an accompanying app...Within the app, Echo Look owners will be able to create their own look books and get a 360-degree view of outfits recorded on video. Amazon also uses a combination of machine learning and expert input to provide a second opinion on clothing picks through a feature called Style Check. Submit two photos, one of each outfit, and the app will rate them based on their fit, color, styling, and current trends.

Now that we generally understand how it works, what are people saying about the Echo Look? Lacy Babcock questions its fashion advice:

No one seems to be sure...who these fashion advisers are...Critics already seem to be curious about how they plan to offer quality fashion advice. They want to know how these standards are being developed and who Amazon has deemed to be qualified leaders of this fashion revolution.
How does artificial intelligence...learn to give adequate subjective advice...Amazon...maintains practical use of the social aspect of this feature as an adequate measure of good fashion sense based on the opinions of a community of fashion forward individuals.

What about those algorithms that the artificial intelligence uses, though? Emily Dreyfuss has cause for concern:

An A.I. doesn’t have an agenda, so it must be right. Right?...Of course not...humans train that A.I. and give it certain parameters. That creates a bias...In this case, Amazon says fashion specialists will inform the A.I...but the fashion industry isn’t exactly unbiased. And for now, it remains unclear just what parameters Echo Look’s human trainers use.

What about Amazon's goals with the device? And are there privacy concerns? Jason Del Ray tackles those topics:

The Echo Look product page includes a hodgepodge of tech buzzwords like computer vision and machine learning...this means that Amazon’s computers are storing and analyzing your pictures and videos to sell you more stuff...Amazon will use this visual recommend new brands and clothing for you in the accompanying app.
Amazon can also target ads to you...based on the information it gleans...Can Amazon provide enough value to get people people to buy into this and the creep factor of an Amazon video camera in their bedroom? That I don’t know.

So are people going to want the Echo Look? Matt Weinberger thinks it may not really matter:

Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't...In the end, it doesn't really matter: It's a sign of how Amazon is willing to take any risk and try anything to conquer the next wave of computing, as the smartphone starts its slow, decade-long march to the grave.

Back to that camera, though. Haven't we been told to be wary about those in the past? Leigh Drogen points out some hypocrisy:

Tech Press: you should probably put tape over your laptop camera.

Tech Press later: OMG you need an Amazon Echo Look!

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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