Alexa, Does My Bum Look Big in This?

Our Informal Poll Reveals Mixed Reactions to Amazon’s Smart Camera

Last week Amazon announced the latest addition to its portfolio of Echo voice-enabled products. The Echo Look has many of the same capabilities as the Echo and Echo Dot, including Alexa, the company’s intelligent voice assistant. But most importantly, it has a built-in camera.

The camera on the Echo Look has an array of four LEDs that provide good light to capture full-length selfie photos and videos. It can even blur out the background, which makes sure the focus is on you, while doubtless hiding any clutter in the room behind you.

The device underlines Amazon’s ambitions for Echo and Alexa. It extends the company’s reach into other parts of the home and into different product categories — in this case, fashion.

For many, a major use for the Echo Look will be sharing pictures and videos with friends on social networks, but Amazon has taken the capabilities one step further. You can submit your pictures to Amazon’s Style Check service, which it claims uses advanced machine-learning algorithms to determine whether your outfit is hot or not. The smart camera dispenses advice from Amazon’s fashion specialists, and you can keep a record of your outfits.

The Echo Look is a relatively unusual product: a technology device that appears to be primarily targeted at women. Hoping to gauge initial reactions, we conducted an informal survey of 25 women, mostly in the UK, who fell into two age groups: 18 to 25 and 30 to 45. We make no claims that it was a representative sample of potential buyers, but we found the responses interesting enough to share some of them here.

Early conclusions can be summarised into two distinct views. For the younger group of women, many of whom already happily share regular moments in their lives on Snapchat, Instagram and other platforms, responses were generally positive, with the main limitation being the price.

For the older group, there was a consistent belief that the Echo Look was an unnecessary gadget, and some respondents thought it posed a considerable privacy problem, especially as it it makes sense to set it up in a bedroom. Yet many felt it might appeal to a younger audience.

Here’s some of the responses from the 18-to-25-year olds, and from the older group when talking about whether the device would appeal to younger members of the family:

“If the price wasn’t so high I would genuinely buy one. You could take pictures of a group all together, too.”

“I’d buy one, for videos of all angles.”

“Not sure I’d use it. Good idea, though.”

“I think this would appeal to teenagers; I can imagine them using it to share outfits.”

“My daughter would love it, but then she’s in the all-consuming selfie world of being 15.”

“My 18-year-old son thinks it’s a fantastic idea.”

The older group was more sceptical:

“Really not my sort of thing, I hate pictures of myself.”

“Waste of time and money; I know what I like wearing and I have a full-length mirror.”

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than seeing the ‘rear view’. However, there are many people who do. If you’re into picture-taking and fashion or building a particular social media profile, this would work for you.”

“It doesn’t immediately appeal, but — if I had the time — a photo library of my wardrobe would be a useful reminder, as I often forget outfit combinations. It could also be useful for styling outfits differently.”

“Given the popularity of young women taking photos of their outfits to post on Instagram or blogs, and how difficult it is to do that on your own, I think the combination of Alexa and a camera will be extremely popular. Not sure about the fashion advice yet. That could quash all sense of unique identity that people communicate through fashion and have us all looking the same.”

“I can see the appeal for some people. I’d have concerns about the privacy issues and I wouldn’t want anything with a connected camera in my bedroom.”

“It holds no interest for me. People are becoming too obsessed on what they look like.”

“I’m not sure anyone needs a device just for taking full-length selfies, but perhaps I’m too unfashionable. I thought the app in Amazon’s promotional video picked the wrong outfit.”

There’s no doubt the Echo Look is an intriguing product, but we’d caution that it’s hard to draw solid conclusions without trying it. Nevertheless, it’s clearly generating strongly polarised views.