The newest Echo device from Amazon, the Echo Look, is a weird one at first look. But it hints at the range of services voice commerce will enable in the (near) future.
Here’s Recode on the new Echo Look:
The new version of the popular Echo — this one is being dubbed the Echo Look — responds to commands like “Alexa, take a photo” or “Alexa, take a video.” It costs $200, or $20 more than the original Echo device, and does all the same things the cheaper one does, with new additions.
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, for examples.
Images can also be uploaded to a new feature that will tell you which of two outfits suits you best. Yes, Amazon — through a combination of an employee and a computer recommendation — is judging your looks.
First, the Echo Look may only be $20 more than a regular Echo but this is still a steep price: The addition of the camera and sensors comes with a lesser capable microphone setup and a speaker with a lesser quality. So, it is not just $20 more for a camera.
This in addition to the rather high $200 price tag makes this a niche product.
Photos and videos can be shared which may make this the entry point for visually focussed social networks like Instagram and whatever Amazon may build in the future. (Think Twitch Pulse for fashionistas.)
But the far more mainstream use case and, subsequently, the scenario with far more consequences for Amazon Fashion lies in the private interactions between the user’s images and the image recognition capabalities in Amazon’s cloud AI.
However it is not meant to replace the main Echo, but to be an extension into a new room of the house, the closet or bedroom.
Using your voice, you can easily take full-length photos and short videos with a hands-free camera that includes built-in LED lighting, depth-sensing camera, and computer vision-based background blur. This allows you to see yourself from every angle with the companion app. Build a personal lookbook and share your photos.
You can get a second opinion on which outfit looks best with Style Check, a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists. Echo Look will also help you discover new brands and styles inspired by your LookBook. […]
Something like Echo Look, a fashion oriented dedicated device, will -in the long run!- help Amazon Fashion:
The more general fashion segment has been elusive for Amazon. Amazon’s answer is to use the technology of their Amazon Rekognition engine  image recognition AI along with the Alexa Voice First engine to create a Style Assistant. Much like a good sales associate at a boutique or perhaps even like a trusted friend, Amazon is aiming to offer fashion advice, tips, recommendations and a long term memory. […]
Today the system uses the Style Check app as a way to help you identify your current look and to find examples of what others are wearing and of course at some point offer a potential purchase via Amazon. The looks you create will be stored int a Personal LookBook for future reference. […]
Herein lies a fascinating insight. The immediacy of voice enables every day usage that, over time, through accumulated data can enable new services:
With Echo/Alexa in your closet, the system will slowly begin to understand what you own, like and may like in the future. In fact, it may turn out that many users will use the LookBook app rather than dig through their closet to suggest what to wear on a particular day. […]
Additionally sooner than most of us can think, Alexa may say “Lisa, you have a meeting with Bob today from headquarters, so I have made some suggestions in your LookBook so that you look your best. You also have a date with Eric and the same outfit will work for the evening, with the accessories you can add after work. What do you think?” […]
The Style Check aspect of Echo Look is a great example of how deep learning and AI can attack a problem. Over time, and based on your personalized look, Style Check will improve with ideas.
There are several interesting questions arising from this:
- When will Amazon release more Echo incarnations dedicated to specific use cases?
- Which online retailers have similar ressources and competencies to build similar devices/services?
- Which platforms will enable similar things in a modular fashion? (For online retailers not capable of doing it themselves. And yes, that pun was intended.)
a16z analyst Benedict Evans sums up nicely the direction this is going into:
Sensors plus machine learning replace keyboard/mouse/touch screen. Camera/microphone as control surfaces.
For Alexa in general, this is a minor addition. More interesting are the recent additions to the Alexa ecosystem. Besides being able to integrate the Alexa service into gadgets, partners now can:
- Integrate Amazon’s 7-Mic voice processing technology to build gadgets with better voice recognition. (Voice recognition depends on the interpreter data/algorithm and the quality of the microphones capturing the input. Here, Amazon enabled its ecosystem of hardware partners to leverage what Amazon has learnt over years of research on microphones for this job.)
- Integrate Lex, the core voice recognition and natural language interpreting technology behind Alexa. Lex is the voice recognition of Alexa without the Alexa service itself.
There is now every conceivable way covered in which one can integrate Amazon’s voice technology: Integrate Alexa, integrate the microphone tech behind Echo, integrate only the core language technology.
Amazon is all in with voice. And no one (yes, not even Google) is even close on the platform side.
Thus, it is not farfetched to assume that the cloud side of things (Lookbook, image recognition and categorization) of today’s Echo Look could become a platform themselves. (In fact, it makes no sense for Amazon to not open this up via APIs to hardware partners.)
Hardware manufacturers, then, would compete with each other on Alexa-connected stand-alone cameras/speakers which in turn drive the fashion assistant provided by Amazon.
If(!)1 successful, Amazon Fashion would mould a very special relationship with its customers. And create a wide moat in the process.
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- How Amazon Is Fostering a Developer Community With ‘Alexa Champions’
- The Alexa Tax
- Could Amazon India Help Amazon Get Better at Fashion?
- Jeff Bezos on Machine Learning and AI at Amazon
- Amazon Is Building Its Own Social Network
- That’s a big if at this point in time. It all makes sense in theory, but who knows. ↩