The rise of the artificial intelligence (AI) world sounds a bit Orwellian to the older generation. Computers that are watching you, keeping track of your movements, predicting your needs, and analyzing the data from a thousand devices around you all the time. Indeed, it seems Big Brother may be watching more than we ever thought possible. But now, with the introduction of the Echo Look by Amazon, Big Brother can park in your closet and give you some fashion advice.

Echo Look is the newest product by Amazon, released last week, and ringing in at $200.  It’s a fairly nice hands-free camera with voice controls, LED lighting, and background blur that allows you to take outfit photos and video and then to ask the companion app StyleCheck for fashion advice. The app uses machine learning algorithms that compare your clothing choices with advice from style specialists, helping you to look your very best. Even though it seems that fashion is as unique as the individual, the reality is that, by and large, trends and patterns exist, and Look is simply capitalizing on those trends, and then offering them to users as ‘advice’. For those with nearly non-existent fashion sense, this may come as a boon, but for any who want to be trend-setters, Look may simply hold them back. If the system catches on, it would be no surprise if everyone had the same ‘Look’ (even more than they already do!).

Obviously, Amazon stands to gain substantially from this tool, as users now offer self-portraits with their favorite clothes to a machine learning system which can then tailor sales platforms for new outfits and varieties. Further, Amazon will be able to compile the data and anticipate trends and even direct fashion sense, given enough user data.

What’s more, the potential for privacy violations is quite large as well. The system can evaluate your size, height, weight, gender, race, etc., as well as potentially evaluate things like mood. This would allow for some pretty sophisticated target marketing from Amazon, and would also allow for combining data sets with what they already understand about our shopping habits. At that point, Amazon would be a firm fixture in your home, mapping your choices from clothes and food, to entertainment and shampoo. They’d know your weight fluctuations, what styles you like, and why, and what your next buying move will likely be. Undoubtedly, this information, in the hands of the right algorithms, will produce some pretty savvy sellers. No wonder Amazon is aggressively pushing this new venture.

For now, Amazon is communicating that they will only use the data for fashion choices, and that users can delete photos at any time. However, the data that can be mined from the photos will already be stored by Amazon, and, while the tech giant has assured users that the data will not be given to third parties, it has not denied it will use what it knows to its advantage. Now…where have we heard that same idea, George?

Read more Artificial Intelligence from Tech Insight – AI and Manufacturing – Predicting the Future