Eyes Wide Shut
Alexa now has eyes, so she can tell you what to take off
Amazon’s just rolled out the new Echo Look and already the rumbles for privacy protection rights and exactly how introducing the all-seeing Eye of Sauron (actually, that’s an exaggeration, especially when the new machine looks more like a potential WALL.E nemesis) into your bedroom is going to play out for the masses. Long story short, The Echo Look is being marketed by Amazon as your own personal stylist at your beck and call, one who can give you the yay or nay on your daily outfits. By using the familiar “Alexa!” voice command to take a full-length image or a video, you’ll be able to see yourself from every angle with the tech’s companion app, Style Check, thus making mirrors quaint little things that hang around just, y’know, reflecting. With Style Check, you can build a personal look-book, share photos of yourself (“Just thought I’d send you a picture of me for the next 365 days darling, my gift to you. Stay fab!”) and get a second opinion on which outfit looks best if you are having trouble deciding. That’s right, there is even a service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists. Thus, your statistical average of looking fabulous every day will, if Echo Look has its way, sky-rocket.
Of course, the device also helps you discover new brands from Amazon, which have been curated and selected according to your tastes and the style inspired by your personal look book. Which, may or may not encourage you to buy something on Amazon. I mean, technology is all about making your life easier, right?
Echo Look promotional video by Amazon
I disagree. I think that technology also has a responsibility to make your life more meaningful, in addition to making it easier. For me, style is something that occurs when someone chooses to express themselves in clothing, in a way that is unique, individual and personal. A style mistake is completely subjective and putting on something that doesn’t make you look as good is just part of the learning curve. Having someone decide your style for you based on algorithms might look good on paper but in reality, it just means that you lose all the quirks that make your style, yours. We are already seeing this happen with Instagram OOTDs, style influencers and blog shops, there is some great style online for sure, but what started to happen after a while is that a particular style then gets copied and replicated over and over again. Just like taking a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, with each copy a paler rendition of the first, people started noticing that OOTDs from influencers were all started to look kind of similar—different people sporting the same expression, same style of clothing and same inspirational quote gleaned from the works of a dead philosopher or poet, who’d be turning in their graves to hear their lines appropriated to promote chic peasant blouses.
Then there’s also the tiny question of personal privacy and how intimately you’d like designated Amazon employees to be privy to your photos and videos captured by the Echo Look. After all, the content collected by the device is collated directly onto the cloud, and, according to Techcruch.com, it stays there, in an encrypted form, until the user deletes it. Which all sounds kinda still ok, except that it isn’t. We already share so much information all the time with everyone, on our own violation, lured by the reward of ‘likes’, ‘smiles’, positive comments and confidence-bolstering feedback. It’s natural to want to feel good and be popular, I update my Instagram and get a thrill when I see the number of likes crawl higher than the previous post. I once almost snapchat my new credit card just because it had a cool wave card design but thankfully, was stopped from being a dumbass (and card-fraud broke) by my friend, who preferred common sense to cool. And yes, I can be that dumb. But that just means that we’ll need to up the ante on our vigilance as to what we want sharing our lives, because having a robot stylist telling you that you look good today, might not be as cool as a bit more self-confidence, and common sense.
And this well-written piece by Curtis Silver for Forbes, is for those individuals who are wondering just how much privacy we might be giving up (don't freak out).