The Amazon Echo has taken homes by storm, with its Alexa assistant helping you organize your life, keep you updated with the latest news, and dress appropriately for the weather conditions – but that last point is being taken a step further with Amazon’s new Echo Look.
Echo Look comes equipped with its own camera, with the sole purpose – for now – to take a snap of your outfit each day and then shamelessly judge whether or not it’s a good look for you.
It’s basically a modern day “hot or not” that you’re being asked to welcome into your home with open arms.
It’s fair to say then that here at TechRadar, we’re not convinced by Amazon’s latest Echo installment, and we need some rather important questions answered before we considering revealing the contents of our wardrobe to the Amazon mothership.
1. Where are the images stored, and what can Amazon use them for?
Privacy is a hot topic, and personal pictures are not images we want freely available to the web. We need to know exactly where the images taken by the Echo Look are stored - be it the cloud, on the device itself, on our smartphones… and secondly, who owns them?
We’re taking photos of ourselves, but we’re using Amazon’s device - if they’re directly ported to the cloud via Amazon’s services does that give the retailer the rights to use the images elsewhere?
2. Can the Echo Look camera be hacked?
Amazon is encouraging people to install the Echo Look in their bedrooms, and then take a photo of their outfit. But do we really want an internet connected camera in our bedroom, watching us changing our clothes?
We need some assurances over the security of the Look platform, as giving hackers an eye into our boudoir doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence - we don’t need anyone to tell us how we look naked, let alone some spotty teenager on the other side of the world.
3. Will third parties be able to make Skills which utilize the camera?
Is look really going to be used for just judging your fashion sense? That seems like a lot of work for one implementation, considering the Alexa platform is based on third party "Skills" which are forever adding functionality to Echo devices.
But at the same time do we really want third parties to get their hands on the snapper? It could lead to some rather dubious skills cropping up in the Alexa app and, as we questioned above, who knows where the pictures could end up...
4. How will Amazon judge a person’s fashion taste when it’s a) a sensitive subject for some and b) highly subjective?
Fashion taste is a very personal thing. From a catwalk curio to a city-smart suit to an outfit tied to a person’s cultural heritage, clothing means different things to different people at different times. How will Amazon be able to sensitively make a judgement call on the millions of potential situations and choices that make up a person’s wardrobe? How long before there’s a tabloid story of a crash dieter being pushed over the edge by an Amazon Echo Look that refuses to greenlight their outfit? Or someone in cultural dress being recommended hotpants?
There’s the issue of subjective taste too. A fashion student will likely feel very differently about how he or she dresses compared to, say, your average tradesperson or your grandparents. What will Amazon do to make recommendations you won’t scoff at, and what will it have to know about each individual to make a suggestion that resonates? We'd imagine the amount of data required about a person to make the Echo Look even remotely useful would be startling. You can walk out the door and, even if you live in a busy metropolis, find it incredibly unlikely to spot someone dressed similarly to you. These are lifestyle choices – not simply a decision based on color-coding, or seasonal trends.
5. What makes the smart speaker a good form-factor for this device?
Devices with cameras are nothing new. They’ve been a standard on phones for decades, and on tablets for as long as they’ve existed.
The original Amazon Echo broke with tradition by being entirely sound-based rather than relying on a screen at all, but with the Amazon Echo Look it feels like the devices are becoming more and more similar to what we’ve seen before.
6. If a simple algorithm can judge fashion, why is Elon Musk so badly dressed?
I mean come on Elon - we get that you’ve done okay with the ladies thus far, but surely you can take some time off from hyperlooping to program your webcam to tell you that your turtleneck is so last year.