New technology that gets up close and personal
The selfie is a societal phenomenon. Humans have always been enthralled by their own image, but now it’s become almost a social requirement to post pictures of yourself. It’s never been easier either, through instant content sharing apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Businesses have taken advantage of the rise of the selfie, and some companies already use ‘Selfie Pay’ to validate transactions. One hugely influential corporation to take an interest in the post-modern obsession is Amazon.
Last month, the retail giants revealed a new device called Echo Look. The product is powered by Alexa and can be purchased for $200 in the US (provided you have a special invitation). Although currently very exclusive, Echo Look will eventually be publicly available. But what exactly does it do, and what’s the point?
A smart, connected camera. . . in your bedroom
Amazon Echo Look is a personal stylist and photographer rolled into one. It’s a voice controlled camera with four LED lights, a depth-sensing system and a microphone that sits on your desk and waits for you to tell it to take a photo. The camera blurs the background to place visual focus entirely on the person, and can also capture videos. By pairing machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists, the ‘Style Check’ feature tells you which outfit is most on-trend. Echo Look isn’t just a mini fashionista. It comes will all of the standard offerings of an Alexa device, including music, answering questions and setting alerts. However, if you’re not particularly into fashion, then you’re probably still wondering what the point is. For the millennial generation, a successful selfie is a form of personal validation – and choosing the right outfit is a concern for everybody, from teenagers to business tycoons. Amazon is basically using a social necessity to expand their already extensive influence, but the real question is where they will go with Echo Look, and how it will disrupt consumer electronics.
Disruption and implications
The concept of a voice controlled camera isn’t particularly disruptive in itself – in fact, adding a camera to a smart device is fundamental to creating a successful product. However, Echo Look is about far more than selfies. It’s about adding another layer to the Voice First revolution, familiarising the sharing of photo content with Artificial Intelligence, and establishing an AI platform that humans will happily take advice from. This is crucial to the expansion of AI as a technology, and the adoption of Echo and Alexa. In terms of positive disruption, adding a camera to a vocal command platform could address some of the security issues with increasingly common Voice First devices. Combining voice and physical recognition is far more reliable than voice alone. Industrial applications include healthcare, as the camera could be used to detect changes in physical condition (and even mental health, via facial expression analysis). For retailers, disruption is a two sided coin. Fashion suggestions could mean increased sales, but bricks and mortar stores could lose out as Echo Look replaces personal shoppers and the need to physically enter a shop. Knowing exactly what someone owns and might want to own is every marketer and retailer’s dream, but you can be certain that Amazon won’t part with that data lightly. Even so, before Echo Look begins to impact industries, it will need to overcome a number of obstacles. Firstly, some consumers are bound to be sceptical and dismiss the product as unnecessary. Then there are the obvious privacy concerns that accompany the adoption of any smart device. Are consumers really going to want an internet-connected camera in their homes – let alone in their bedrooms? Users can turn off both the camera and microphone, but the possibility of being watched is still unsettling.
Most people care about their appearance, and if Echo Look can tell them how to look their best then it’s bound to be successful. The point of Echo Look, though, is not just to provide a live-in stylist. The device is yet another step towards seamless AI and human interaction, through reliable voice-enabled, camera supported conversation. There are potential barriers to wider consumer acceptance, but at the end of the day, pretty much everyone wants to feel good in their own skin. Via Echo Look, our universal interest in how we look is now part of Amazon’s expansion strategy – one which will revolutionise Voice First technology.
Could Voice First, camera equipped devices disrupt your business or industry? Is Echo Look the next step in Amazon’s expansion plan? Can the company convince customers to trust their new product? Share your comments and opinions.