Amazon this week discontinued the Echo Look after pulling the Alexa-powered camera from store shelves in December 2019, a spokesperson confirmed to VentureBeat via email. As spotted by Voicebot.ai, Echo Look customers began receiving an email yesterday stating that their devices and the companion app will “no longer function” beginning July 2020, as the Echo Look’s capabilities migrate to other apps and services.
Style by Alexa, which suggests, compares, and rates apparel using a combination of AI and human curation, is available in the Amazon Shopping app after launching exclusively on the Echo Look. (It’s under the Programs and Features section in the left slide-out menu.) And now, asking any Alexa-enabled device “Alexa, what should I wear?” will prompt style recommendations based on the weather, shopping preferences, and other factors.
As Amazon explains, the Echo Look was always intended to help train the AI algorithms behind features like Style by Alexa, whose expanded launches come as the apparel market suffers pandemic-related declines. With style recommendations and programs like Prime Wardrobe, which lets users try on clothes and send back what they don’t want to buy, Amazon is vying for a larger slice of sales while algorithmically surfacing products customers might not normally choose. It’s a win for businesses on its face — excepting cases where the recommended accessories are Amazon’s own, of course.
“When we introduced Echo Look three years ago, our goal was to train Alexa to become a style assistant as a novel way to apply AI and machine learning to fashion. With the help of our customers we evolved the service, enabling Alexa to give outfit advice and offer style recommendations,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat. “We look forward to continuing to support our customers and their style needs with Alexa.”
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Amazon says Echo Look customers have been offered steep discounts on purchases of an Echo Show or Echo Show 5. The company is also offering free Amazon Photos accounts to store users’ Echo Look photos and videos through July 24, 2021, but those who don’t create an account by the deadline won’t be able to access their content.
Interestingly, the demise of the Echo Look — which launched in a closed, invite-only beta three years ago and was made available for general purchase in April 2017 — follows Facebook’s push toward an AI- and machine learning-driven ecommerce assistant. Last week, the social network detailed the algorithms behind its shopping experiences, including GrokNet, which can detect exact, similar (via related attributes), and co-occurring products across billions of photos; the company says GrokNet performs searches and filtering on Facebook Marketplace at least twice as accurately as the algorithm it replaced.
“We envision a future in which [a] system could … incorporate your friends’ recommendations on museums, restaurants, or the best ceramics class in the city — enabling you to more easily shop for those types of experiences,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. “Our long-term vision is to build an all-in-one AI lifestyle assistant that can accurately search and rank billions of products, while personalizing to individual tastes. That same system would make online shopping just as social as shopping with friends in real life. Going one step further, it would advance visual search to make your real-world environment shoppable. If you see something you like (clothing, furniture, electronics, etc.), you could snap a photo of it and the system would find that exact item, as well as several similar ones to purchase right then and there.”