Recently, rumor spread that Amazon was building an Alexa-enabled camera. Needless to say, we were pretty excited. An Alexa-enabled camera makes sense because cameras and Echos are both typically placed in high-traffic areas. Combining both technologies into one device is like hitting two birds with one stone.
Amazon is working on its own home security camera https://t.co/kVdXrik1tI
— A Secure Cam (@asecurecam) March 6, 2017
However, we were greatly disappointed when Amazon finally revealed what the Alexa-enabled camera is and what it does. It's far from what we expected. It's not a security camera, and it's certainly not for most of us. So, what is it?
Echo Look: The Voice-Controlled Camera For Fashionistas
Echo Look is a stationed selfie camera best used to capture your #OOTD (outfit of the day). It captures whole-body portrait pictures and is programmed to blur the background to make your outfit pop. It even has four built-in LEDs that function as a flash. Besides taking pictures, you can ask Echo Look to record a short video, at which point you're expected to twirl. The video playback will give you a 360-degree look of your outfit. All your photos and videos are instantly sent to the Echo Look app. If you want, you can keep your OOTD shots and create a personal lookbook or a virtual closet on your phone.
To even further its cause of helping you with your fashion choices, Echo Look comes with an added feature called Style Check. This feature will ask you to upload two photos of you wearing different outfits. It then uses machine learning algorithms and advice taken from fashion experts to recommend which outfit is best. It considers the fit, color, styling, and how "in" your outfit is. It may also give you a few tips and suggest other pieces that you might want to buy from Amazon… Yes, it's a Trojan horse aimed at helping with the goal of selling. We only hope it's lower pressure than the Buckle.
Putting the fashion features aside, Echo Look is just like any other Alexa device. Whatever you would typically ask Amazon Echo, you can ask Look. However, Look's speaker and microphones are not as good as the original Echo so don't expect it to produce an amazing sound to get your pumped up while you're picking out your #OOTD.
Privacy Issues and Amazon's Solution
Now here's the big question: Where will you place Echo Look? Probably where you get dressed, right? Maybe your bedroom or your walk-in closets? To me, this poses a privacy risk. No matter how secure Look is, it's not hack-proof. What if hackers find a way to capture not only your outfit but videos of you putting on your outfit? #Creepy. Okay, maybe the chances of that happening are slim, but what about Amazon's machine learning algorithm? The algorithm not only identifies what an object is, but it also describes it (e.g. red clothing, flowy dress, etc.). What if the algorithm tries to identify not just your outfit but also the objects that surround you? What if the algorithm goes, "Oh, that's a leather bed frame in the background, maybe I should sell her another one"? What if ads related to objects found in your bedroom start showing up on your browser? Would you be okay with that?
Fortunately, Amazon offers assurance that they won't sell your interest-based information (the things you ask Alexa) to third-party advertisers and that their machine learning algorithm will only identify your outfit, not the things around you. They also assure users that Look's camera stays off when not in use, and that it will only turn on when you trigger it with your voice.
Finally, Amazon has added a button to the device that serves as a power button for the microphone and camera. If you want Look to stop listening and looking, you press the button. What's interesting about this button is that it disconnects the camera electronically. Hackers won't be able to use their mad skills to turn the camera back on remotely.
Pricing and Availability
Echo Look is currently available by invitation only, but eventually, it will be available to all Amazon Prime members. It is currently selling for $199.99.