"Hey Alexa, on the shelf. What style looks best on myself?"
If the original Amazon Echo overlaid a voice agent onto a speaker, the Echo Look does the same with what is technically a camera -- but, functionally, it's a magic mirror. Like other Alexa-enabled devices, the Echo Look can provide spoken answers to voice-initiated commands and questions. But with its integrated small LED array and depth-sensing camera designed for full-length selfies, the Look aims to be a portal into more personalized style selection.
Even more than the first Echo, which could add items to a shopping list and had ties into Prime Music, the Echo Look has two major commerce implications for Amazon. As when Amazon introduced its first device, the now quaint-looking -- and possibly waning -- Kindle, it did so in a category that it was already dominating online. Now, as it does in many categories, Amazon dominates the market for online apparel, but that is still a small share of the overall clothing market.
As would-be selfie takers enrich Amazon's style preference, it can recommend clothing the way it once pioneered recommending books. And as the Kindle allowed Amazon to better compete with incumbent brick-and-mortar booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and Borders by decreasing the total time from purchase to delivery, the Look circumvents physical retailers by essentially turning one's bedroom into a more comfortable version of a retailer's dressing room. Indeed, it is somewhat surprising that the company hasn't launched a fashion gift box business to accompany the Look, although that may be in the offing once it better understands consumer preferences.
But Amazon is relying on more than just AI to offer fashion advice to the style-conscious. It is incorporating the feedback of human stylists to help Look owners choose looks that flatter them. That leads into Amazon's second emerging business opportunity, the one of offering a marketplace for service professionals. Today, that is focused on residential professionals and has been a credible enough threat to help push rivals Angie's List and HomeAdvisor toward a merger. But it could easily expand into referral networks for other professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.
Amazon's development of the Echo Look demonstrates that the retailer/media company/hosted infrastructure company hasn't hit the brakes in the wake of privacy and security concerns . If anything, the Look, which may well be pointed at people at various stages of clothes-changing, asks consumers to go well beyond one's voiceprint. Indeed, the timing of the Echo Look is uncanny given the recent release of The Circle, a poorly received film about a company with diverse interests that accesses cameras around the globe. To paraphrase the CEO of the fictitious company in the film, "Knowing is good. Knowing what clothes you look better in is better."
Indeed, while having a camera in the home might be a good springboard for security applications (their most common purpose), for now, the Echo Look is narrowly tailored to a small market. However, it stands to break down another surveillance barrier. If the Kinect proved that consumers were willing to adopt a camera in their living room, Echo Look may do the same for the bedroom.
Try these fun (and completely useless) Amazon Alexa commands