A camera can now help you choose an outfit for school every day. The Echo Look is Amazon’s newest product in their line of “smart speakers” that can perform skills based on the verbal commands of the user. It is designed to assist people in their wardrobe decisions, take full length selfies and suggest outfits that would complement the user’s style and body shape. The introduction of the Echo Look represents the unique issues of privacy infringement and reliance on technology that these devices create.
The Echo Look has camera with LED lights and will take hands-free pictures and videos of the user on command, allowing people to see their appearance in different outfits. It also includes a depth-sensing camera that can blur the background. When a user is unsure about an outfit, the Look’s Style Check uses algorithms and advice from fashion specialists to provide an opinion, rate fashion choices, and help users choose between fashion pairs. Ultimately, a final score is given to allow users to collect and compare outfits. Amazon will also give users advice about what clothes to purchase.
Through the nature of this feedback, the camera raises concerns about privacy and the power of machine learning. Echo Look will presumably be stationed in the bedrooms of users, and some are concerned that the device can detect identifiable objects in the background and use the information to influence marketing to specific users. Through machine learning, the Echo Look has the power to identify an object and its characteristics. In an interview with Wired, Louis-Philippe Morency, a machine expert at Carnegie Mellon University, explained, “In a simplistic way, we’re going from being able to give things names or nouns to being able to give them adjectives. We can describe not just that it’s a shoe, but it’s a red shoe.” Through this feature, Amazon can bombard customers with products online based on their interests revealed through the objects captured in pictures. Although some may argue that this is a similar feature to what companies use when users allow “cookies” on their computer, The Echo Look now gives technology a look into users’ private homes, not just their purchasing history. The Echo Look demonstrates the break of the barrier of privacy. As technology advances, it has the power to manipulate the minds of users in their everyday lives. By allowing devices such as Echo Look to gain access to information one’s consumer patterns, people are therefore allowing technology to essentially control their purchases, preferences, and even their behavior. Many people are unaware that technology has such an influence on how we act and what we buy. Often, people believe that they have enough selfcontrol to avoid the marketing tactics that companies use. However, people can be affected subconsciously as advertisements and promotions are constantly appearing in everything they see and hear. By giving the Echo Look access to your own home, users make themselves more susceptible to different kinds of marketing tactics.
Many consumers are not thrilled about Amazon’s Echo Look, and survey data from Business Insider Intelligence shows that it is unlikely to gain mass market adoption. Over 82% of people said that they were unlikely to buy it, and only 3% said that they would buy it as soon as they can. Many people reported that they were worried about their privacy, unimpressed by the price, or not interested in the style feature. Business Insider suggests that the Echo Look does not resonate with customers like previous Amazon products have succeeded in doing. The need for a device such as the Echo Look is not prevalent, and people are not willing to try such a new and daring product.
The Echo Look raises another important question: Are people becoming too dependent on technology? Technology has played a large role in shaping society, and has many useful functions in society. Robotic surgery, navigation systems, and access to information are just a few examples of its importance. Although technology has made a positive impact in the world by mastering tasks previously impossible or difficult for humans to perform, people are becoming reliant on it for simple skills that most can easily perform themselves. People ask their ‘Alexa’ speaker to add items to their grocery lists rather than simply writing one out, they text a conversation that they could have face to face, and they instruct their Google Home to turn off their bedroom lights rather than walking the ten feet to push a switch. The Echo Look demonstrates that human beings are letting their basic functionality and judgement be controlled by devices. However, although it may be simpler or more efficient to delegate these tasks to technology, it is not always the best choice. In an interview for The Cambridge Student, Robert Hart states, “Certain tasks have major impacts that really do need human judgement before being enacted. A striking example of this is the rise of autonomy in military robotics. Robots could one day, potentially very soon, make decisions on life and death. Such decisions arguably require ethics.” Humans are more than capable of making these decisions based on judgement. For the past hundreds of years, human beings have had no issue choosing their own wardrobe. Why do we suddenly need a computer to advise us in fashion choices now? It is a matter of availability and laziness. When the choice that requires the least effort is placed in front of someone, they are likely to choose it. However, in doing so, they increase their dependency on an electronic device and waste their abilities as a human being.
With the introduction of the Echo Look, Amazon has crossed a barrier of privacy and reliance on technology. Our lives have become dictated by technology, whether we realize it or not. Our everyday actions are controlled by nonliving devices. With the increased functionality of technology, it has become easier to rely on it for tasks that we have been doing on our own throughout the majority of our lives. People have let technology manipulate their minds and their behavior.