Amazon's Echo Look turns Alexa into a personal stylist
Amazon has added the Echo Look, a device with a voice-controlled camera that helps users assess their outfits and track what they wear, to its ever-expanding family of Alexa-powered Echo devices.
The narrow, oval-shaped Echo Look can take full-body photos and videos, and logs them in a "Lookbook." The device also includes a "Style Check" feature that allows users to choose two photos of outfits to compare. Alexa then delivers a judgment based on automated assessment of factors such as fit, color, styling, seasons and current trends.
For now, consumers who want to purchase the Echo Look need to request an invitation from Amazon and pony up $199.99. The company didn’t announce when the device will become available for the broader public.
Amazon lately has been forging some interesting partnerships with companies like Ford and LG, among others, to bring its Alexa virtual assistant to a wider range of third-party devices and products, and it's clearly not finished expanding its Echo product family. And why should it stop at Dots and Taps when Echo devices have been selling so well?
The Echo Look changes the game for Amazon's Echo device strategy, shifting its role from a static home music speaker to a personal stylist that can snap photos and videos, and judge outfit selections. The device appears to be focused on a pretty specific set of fashion and apparel applications, and comes with a companion app that allows users to view different Look angles on their phones, giving fashion-obsessed and compulsive outfit-changers alike a lot to like in the Look.
The automated outfit assessment and comparison feature is drawing a lot of attention, perhaps because modern culture is constantly on the lookout for that sure-to-come moment when we surrender out free will to our AI overlords. Amazon has also created an air of mystery around the feature by not fully explaining how it looks and what role human fashion experts are playing, or who those experts are. That leaves a lot of room to question how the Echo Look reaches its judgments, though users ultimately may not care, and may actually prefer the judgment of a faceless, inert device to that of a store associate with a possibly, maybe insincere facial expression and flaky demeanor.
Interestingly, Amazon just last month launched a somewhat similar outfit-compare feature on its mobile app, though that feature relies on getting a quick response from a human team of outfit assessors, and has not generated nearly as much commentary about how much we can or can't trust AI.
What may be most interesting about the Echo Look is where it goes from here. Amazon didn't really discuss e-commerce purchasing applications, though with Alexa inside, the Echo Look likely has the same capabilities. The ability to take video also suggests it has potential as a communication or presentation device. What's the Look's future? We'll see.