The future of fashion is well and truly here — or is it? A gadget that rates the outfits you choose has raised the hackles of some trend-setters. Aoife Loughnane checks out the new look.
Amazon has announced its latest venture, known as the Echo Look style assistant.
The Echo Look is the newest member of the Echo device family, which includes the Echo Dot and the original Echo or ‘Alexa’.
It is what Amazon is calling its hands-free style assistant: it is voice activated and will take full length photos and videos of you in your various outfits and give you an opinion on how you look.
As if we need a robot telling us our favourite jeans look awful on us.
The device comes with a built-in depth-sensing camera and flash that allows full-length images and videos to be taken of yourself via voice command.
Images can then be added to a daily lookbook to keep track of outfits and compare them with each other.
In addition, its style check feature “combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists” to help in choosing your outfit, according to Amazon.
This video shows exactly how the Echo Look looks and operates.
This new device is dividing opinions on social media, with many people arguing that it takes the individuality away from fashion.
Goss.ie entertainment reporter Aine O’Donnell says that she is not inspired by Echo Look and finds it offensive.
“Fashion is a creative outlet, and no one wants to be told what not to wear – especially by a machine,” she tells The City. “If I want to wear clashing colours because I feel like it, I will. I’m pretty sure the world would respect me more for that, than if I was to become a fashion clone.”
O’Donnell touches on the problem with the core element of fashion – individuality. If a robot is telling us what looks good, doesn’t that go against the whole principle of one’s own personal style?
Irish fashion designer Maria Lola Roche is also concerned about the issue of individuality. “’Robots need to be programmed by an individual, and it would be naïve to think that their software isn’t going to be someway affected by advertising industry. You will never know using a robot. Using a trusted stylist you will always know.”
O’Donnell agrees. “Although it can recognise trends and such, it completely misses the point. Fashion is a way of expressing yourself because you wear something you chose specifically for yourself. Fashion is individual, unique, and expressive – no bot is going to take away my personal style,” she says.
The expansion of the Echo family is not doing much to damage Amazon’s figures. Founder Jeff Bezos’ personal wealth rose last week by $1.5 billion (€1.39 billion) as the share price of Amazon.com rose by $18.32.
With the addition of a camera to the Echo, Bezos has tapped into a massive market – fashion.
Bezos made his ambitions clear when he said in an interview almost a decade ago: “In order to be a $200 billion company we’ve got to learn how to sell clothes and food.” In regards to food, Amazon have a grocery delivery service subsidiary called AmazonFresh.
Techcrunch has commented the future of Amazon if it cracks the fashion market, saying that, “It’s not hyperbole to say many fashion brands and retailers are facing a doomsday scenario if Bezos is able to realize the scale of his sartorial ambitions.”
There have been privacy concerns voiced by experts over issues surrounding the fact that the Echo Look camera regularly takes and stores pictures of both users and their homes.
“A lot of consumers see the convenience and don’t think about the long-term records that are being kept,” Peter Swire, an expert in privacy law at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business told Wired.
However, users can delete their photos that the Look takes of them at any time. Wired also said that Amazon confirmed that Echo Look will only use its machine learning smarts to identify outfits, and not anything else that it is captured in the photos.
As Amazon’s policy on how it might prevent invasive data collection is unclear and lacking, the future of privacy remains to be seen.
The Echo Look is priced at $199 and currently available only by invitation to purchase on Amazon.com.