You can count on Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) to come up with … interesting … ideas. Like drone-delivered packages, Dash buttons for pushbutton ordering of products and the idea it came up with in 2015 to stuff its Alexa digital assistant in a wireless speaker — the Amazon Echo.
Now Amazon is cranking up the creative with the Echo Look, a device the company describes as “a hands free camera and style assistant.” And once again, Alexa is inside.
What Is Echo Look?
Amazon has built a wireless camera with a built-in microphone array, a speaker and Alexa integration. Like the Amazon Echo, you can ask Alexa to play music, order toilet paper or control you smart home devices using Skills. Oh, it’s also a camera.
Amazon is positioning it as something that works with your smartphone as a kind of virtual mirror. The command “Alexa, take a picture” snaps a full length photo with background blurred. Amazon says this makes your “outfit pop” and blurring the background makes your photos more shareable (presumably by hiding all your dirty laundry and unmade bed).
You can get a live look at yourself from different angles using the Echo Look app. You can ask Alexa to shoot a video so you can see yourself from every angle. And you can submit photos of yourself to Amazon for AI advice based on input from “fashion specialists.” You can also create a personal “lookbook” in the app, which appears to be a catalog (remember those?) of you modelling all your outfits.
Why Would Anyone Want This?
People who want to be dressed according to the whims of artificial intelligence? People who haven’t figured out mirrors? If you live alone, or don’t trust the fashion sense of the people you do live with, Echo Look promises a second opinion on your outfit choices. Albeit, an option from an AI owned by a company that wants to sell you new clothes.
With the ongoing addition of Skills that integrate it with other services and devices, it’s possible that the the Echo Look could also expand into functionality like a fitness camera (capturing progress photos) or a security camera.
So What Could Go Wrong?
It goes without saying that people will use Echo Look in ways Amazon had not intended. That’s human nature. Put a camera in bedroom that snaps photos or shoots video on voice command, with LED lighting and lenses that blur the background, and it seems inevitable that content shot with Amazon Echo is going to start showing up online.
Of course the elephant in the room is the ongoing privacy concerns about smart speakers. People have been freaked out about Alexa always listening. What if Alexa is also always watching? Amazon told ArsTechnica UK there is a button to physically disable the camera and microphone.
It’s a single button, however, so if you turn off the camera, you also shut down Alexa voice command. So people are going to be tempting to simply leave it on so they can continue to ask Alexa the weather forecast.
Unless you do get in the habit of physically shutting it down after each use, the potential is there for things to go sideways, Already this year, we’ve seen Amazon Echo speakers fooled by a TV broadcast with Alexa ordering dollhouses for viewers in the San Diego area. Then there was the commercial that infamously “hacked” Google Home to start reciting hamburger info from Wikipedia.
With Echo Look, you have the same basic vulnerabilities at play, but this time there’s not just a microphone and a direct connection to your amazon.com account; there’s also an internet-connected, voice-controlled camera pointed at you.
How to Get an Amazon Echo Look
Despite the potential risks involved, there are going to be people who want to buy an Amazon Echo. So how do you get your hands on one? If you have your $199.99 you have to request an invitation from Amazon.
If selected, AMZN says you’ll receive a notification e-mail. Everyone else will have to wait until Amazon decides whether or not to launch the Echo Look to the public before they can say “Alexa, take a picture.”
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.