Amazon Echo Look review: Amazon's Echo Look camera turns Alexa into a fashion stylist

The Echo Look app (available for iOS and Android) keeps up with all your photos organized by date in the "Looks" section. By default, your photo appears up in the app with a slightly blurred background so you and your outfit pop (you can disable that setting). Each picture includes a "Details" section where you can add notes about your outfit. This section also keeps a record of what the weather was on that day to provide your future self with some context for your past outfit choices. 

CNET's Megan Wollerton took a picture with the Echo Look (left). The app returned a page full of similar clothes that she could buy directly through Amazon.

Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

The Echo Look wouldn't be an Amazon product if there wasn't some encouragement to buy some clothes through the online retailer. In the "Details" section of some pictures, you'll find pictures of clothing options that are similar to those you're wearing in the selfie. If you select one of the comparable outfits, the Echo Look app redirects you straight to the Amazon listing for the item. This inevitable tie-in to online shopping is fairly unobtrusive, and it isn't available with every photo. And the outfits that the Echo Look app suggests are pretty spot-on. 

In June 2018, Echo Look got more aggressive in its Amazon tie-ins. The app added a feature that recommend pieces (that directly link to Amazon) that will pair well with the tops and bottoms in your pictures. Since this is an optional feature, I'm not too mad about the pressure to order clothes from Amazon.

You can also use the Echo Look to capture 6-second videos of yourself, ideally to get a 360-degree view of your ensemble and answer the age-old question: "How does my ass look?" Say, "Alexa, take my video," wait for the aforementioned beeps, and do a twirl. These videos are stored in the same space on the app as the still shots, with the same option to add details about your outfit. And if you really like what you see, you can download and share your photos and videos from within the app.

The photos and video that the Echo Look captures provide a good view of what you're wearing that indeed trumps what you get from a mirror. They're well lit thanks to the LED lights on the body of the Echo Look, and the voice activation eliminates the need for selfie sticks, self timers or a patient partner who doesn't mind taking your picture. 

I'd like to see the Echo Look app beef up what you can do with your pictures in the app. For example, it would be helpful to be able to categorize your clothes with labels like "dressy," "business professional" or "casual" so you can easily scan through your wardrobe for a specific occasion. But overall, I think "Clueless'" Cher would be pleased.

Style Check

One of the biggest draws of the Echo Look is the app's Style Check feature. Here's how it works: You select two photos of yourself in different outfits and submit them to Style Check. In about a minute, Style Check will return a recommendation about which outfit you should wear by showing the percentage it favors each outfit. 

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After you submit two photos for comparison, you receive a push notification (top left) when the Style Check results are ready. The app uses percentages to show you which outfit it thinks is best.

Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

According to Amazon, "Style Check is powered by combining advanced machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists. Our fashion specialists have varied backgrounds in the fashion, retail, editorial and styling industries and are trained to evaluate outfits based on fit, color, styling, season and current trends." Style Check also asks you to choose which option you like better to help the system "get smarter."

CNET intern Kaelan Doolan wore the same outfit, but with different shoes. Style Check had a preference.

Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

Amazon declined to get into a lot of detail about how the Style Check works or how it improves over time. But after a couple of days of heavy use, Style Check seems pretty smart. It knew when I attempted to submit a picture of me and a picture my colleague Megan Wollerton in the same Style Check. For the most part, it also knew when I attempted to submit two different pictures of me in the same outfit. And the camera could even tell the difference between two pictures of our intern, Kaelan Doolan, in the same clothes but different shoes.

After a handful of Style Checks, you can start coming to some conclusions about what outfits work best for you. For example, I noticed patterns in what the app recommended for me: Dresses over pants and a top, slacks and a cardigan over a t-shirt and jeans, fitted clothes over looser options. 

When I first reviewed the Echo Look, I wanted to see Style Check provide more outright advice rather than having to review all of the Style Checks to find these patterns. Since then, Amazon has added more feedback. The Style Check results list all of the qualities that make it prefer one look over another one. For example, one Style Check said it preferred my outfit of a black cardigan, pattern blouse and burgundy pants to those same pants with a different sweater because the patterns and shape of the outfit work better. Though it isn't getting as specific as I'd like (Alexa, should I wear more yellow?) this was a smart addition to Style Check that helps you learn what works for you.

Unlike a spouse or a good friend, the Echo Look isn't trying to build up your self-esteem. Rather, it provides objective advice based on the info with which you present it. And I agreed with the Style Check in nearly every comparison I submitted.

Security

Let's address the elephant in the room: With a built-in camera that takes photos and videos, how safe is it to have the Echo Look in my bedroom?

Here's what Amazon had to say about privacy and security with the Echo Look:

"Amazon takes customer privacy seriously and we have taken measures to make Echo Look secure. These include hardware control via the mic/camera off button, disallowing third-party application installation on the device, rigorous security reviews and encryption of images and communication between Echo Look, the Echo Look app and Amazon servers.

"The camera only activates by asking Alexa or using the Echo Look App to take a photo, video or when using live preview. The mic and camera are electrically disconnected when the mic/camera off button on the side of the device is pressed-you see the light ring on the device turns red and a red Ø appears below the light ring."

There's also a slight delay between what the camera captures and what shows up on the video in the app. And you can't access the camera's feed in the app if your phone is on a different Wi-Fi network than your Echo Look. 

But I see some practical issues. For example, someone in your home can still snap pictures even if your phone's not on the same Wi-Fi network, so you might get flooded with a feed of silly selfies if you have some precocious kids or roommates. And at the end of the day, you're still submitting a lot of visual information to Amazon and trusting that it will be in good hands.

Final thoughts

Amazon's Echo speakers have thus far aimed squarely for mainstream appeal. The Echo Look is different. This is a product for folks who care about fashion and outward appearance -- hard stop. It provides a reliable second opinion and great visual catalog of your wardrobe. But if you just want a smart speaker, this is not the Echo you're looking for.