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Amazon ‘style assistant’ divides opinion

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Echo LookImage copyright Amazon

Amazon’s new smart speaker, the Echo Look, received a mixed reaction following its unveiling this week.

Some say it could inspire confidence while others voiced privacy concerns.

The $200 (£154) gadget, not yet on sale, features a camera to capture full-length selfies and video which can be stored to create a personal “look book”.

It uses smart assistant Alexa to give a verdict on outfit choices and recommend clothes to buy.

It is listed as available “by invitation only” on the Amazon website.

“With this data, Amazon won’t be able to just sell you clothes or judge you. It could analyze (sic) if you’re depressed or pregnant and much else,” tweeted Zeynap Tufekci, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina.

“Not just a privacy disaster; people don’t understand what algorithms can infer from pictures. You are disclosing a lot of health info, too.”

Amazon has been contacted by the BBC for comment.

Image copyright Fiona Blake
Image caption Fiona Blake said the device could be inspiring.

But Fiona Blake, who runs a closed Facebook page where hundreds of women share photos of their outfits and offer each other supportive fashion advice, said she thought the Echo Look sounded like a good idea.

“People struggle with looking in the mirror and taking photographs of themselves,” she said.

“This is brilliant daily inspiration. You could flick through your own personal Pinterest board [of outfit choices] – that is key for getting up, getting dressed and getting out there.

“I’m happy for someone to recommend something. I can’t get to every high street shop. I don’t mind being sold to but I know a lot of people don’t like that approach.”

Professional stylist Donna McCulloch, from Sulky Doll stylists, said people should not rely on an app to tell them what to wear.

“If you are unsure about an outfit, then trust your own gut instinct and try a different look instead,” she said.

Image copyright Amazon

Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, said the Echo Look may not appeal to all ages.

“For younger people that happily share regular moments of their life via SnapChat and Instagram, the general response has been positive with the main limitation being the price,” he told the BBC.

“However, for a slightly older audience it either seems completely unnecessary (I already have a full length mirror) or is regarded as a considerable privacy concern – particularly in the context of a device that it makes sense to have in a bedroom.

“It underlines Amazon’s ambitions for its growing range of Alexa-powered Echo products. The Echo Look helps extend its reach into other parts of people’s homes and also in the dramatically different product categories orientated around fashion.”

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