This week Amazon took the wraps off a new incarnation of its Alexa voice assistant, giving the AI an eye so it can see as well as speak and hear. The Echo Look also contains a depth sensor that's being used, in the first instance, to create a bokeh effect for a hands-free style selfies feature that Amazon is hoping will sell the device to fashion lovers, by making their outfits pop out against the bedroom wallpaper, and making them more eager to socially share. The Echo Look app is where users can view the style selfies (and videos) they've asked Alexa to record for them (she indefinitely stores a copy for Amazon too). But the flagship feature of the app is a fashion feedback service, called Style Check, which Amazon says will utilize machine learning to rate fashion choices and help users choose between outfit pairs. And ultimately, presumably, give their entire wardrobe a score.
"Ryan Gosling is my favourite actor so I'm going to look like him," says the Asos chief executive, Nick Beighton. "Here's a picture of Ryan looking cool so I'd like something to make me look like just like him. There we go, a printed T-shirt, add it to bag and away we go." Beighton is not waving a magic wand, he's demonstrating new technology that promises to change the way we shop. From seeing something you like to having a parcel winging its way to your home is now possible within seconds as new technologies reboot retailers' websites for the smartphone age.
There was a media frenzy when Amazon Go was announced in December 2016. A grocery store based initially in Seattle, it enables shoppers to literally just walk out with whatever items they choose thanks to sensors recording what they pick up and charging back to their Amazon Prime accounts. Facilitated by first swiping the Amazon app on your smartphone, it nods to the automated future of retail, but more than that the growing potential ahead for the phone to control the entire commerce experience. A wake-up call to retail execs around the world, the question on many people's lips is whether that concept is equally applicable to other verticals? From a value proposition, not to mention strategic business perspective, it's something that makes a great deal of sense for grocery, where both the barrier to entry and level of associated risk, is low.