The Amazon Echo Look is one of the most peculiar devices to be released by Amazon. The general reaction to it reminds me a lot of the initial reaction to the Amazon Echo when it was revealed. Like many, I didn’t think I’d have much use for a voice controlled speaker, but have since really enjoyed having one. So, while I don’t think I have much use for a voice controlled camera or a “style assistant,” as the Echo Look is being called, I picked one up to see if it had a place in my lineup of Alexa devices.
In the box you get the Echo Look, a power adapter that is identical to the one for the Amazon Echo and Fire TV, apart from the right angle connector, an articulating stand that can be screwed into the bottom or back of the Echo Look, a wall mounting bracket that the stand can slide onto, and a pair of screws with drywall anchors for the mounting bracket. The Echo Look’s two mounting holes use standard photography tripod screw threads.
The Echo Look itself is about the same size and shape as a Twinkie. It feels like a very solid and premium product. I’d say more so than the 2nd generation Echo Dot. On the front is a camera lens surrounded by a multi-color RGB light ring that illuminates in segments, just like the light ring on the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot (e.g., asking to set the volume to 7 will result in 70% of the light ring being illuminated as a visual indicator). Around the camera are 4 very powerful dual-color LED lights that flash briefly when a photo is taken and light up continuously while a video is being recorded.
On the top of the Echo Look is an array of 4 beamforming microphone holes, to hone in on the person speaking. Along one side of the device is a button that disables both the microphones and camera when pressed. When disabled, the light ring on the front stays red and a hidden icon, depicting a circle with a line through it, lights up in red below the camera lens. While disabled, the Echo Look will no longer show a live camera feed within the app, nor can it take any photos or videos.
The back of the Echo Look has the power port, speaker, and wall mounting point. The speaker can surprisingly get as loud as the Echo Dot’s speaker, although it sounds noticeably worse. I’m fine cranking up the Echo Dot’s volume and listening to a bit of music through it when I’m too lazy to use a better speaker, but doing the same with the Echo Look was unpleasant. Music sounds echoey and shrilly through the Echo Look. It’s obviously not meant to play music, as is evident by the lack of volume buttons, so you’ll want to stick to spoken content, like news briefs, audiobooks, and podcasts, which all sound good through the Echo Look.
Functionally, the Echo Look can do almost everything the Echo and Echo Dot can do. Some of the newer Alexa features, like making calls and setting reminders, are not yet available on the Echo Look, but I expect they’ll eventually be added. When Alexa gains new abilities, they tend to be available on the flagship Alexa devices first, which include the Echo and Echo Dot, and then make their way to other Alexa devices later, like the Fire TV and Fire Tablets. Something none of the other Alexa devices do, which the Echo Look obviously does, is take photos and videos.
When you say “Alexa, take a photo,” the Echo Look will perform a 3 beep countdown, where it will take the photo on the third beep. The light ring around the lens turns white in sync with each beep. On the second beep, the 4 LEDs very briefly light up, which is most likely done to light the subject while the camera adjusts its focus. On the third beep, all 4 LEDs light up again, this time for a longer time, while the photo is taken. If a subject is identified, the app uses depth-sensing to apply an optional “Pop” filter, which blurs the background.
The maximum resolution of the images appear to be 1593 x 2832, which is 4.5 Megapixels. I say this appears to be the maximum resolution because the Echo Look tries to locate a subject in the photo and automatically crops the image to show only the one subject, resulting in varying image sizes, depending on the amount of cropping. For the two photos above, the Echo Look was in the exact same location for both photos. For the first image, a subject was not found, indicated by the lack of “Pop” option in the Echo Look app. For the second image, the Echo Look selected me as the subject, and unfortunately cropped out my son, who was sitting next to me. There is no way to view or save the uncropped photo if a subject is identified.
If you say “Alexa, record a video,” the same 3 beep countdown begins, but the LEDs do not light up during the second beep, and they stay lit after the third beep for the duration of the video recording. Videos are 6 seconds long, 720 x 1280 (720p) resolution at 30 frames per second, and are saved as MP4 files using h264 encoding. Audio is recorded as well, but it is at an oddly low volume. The idea behind video recording with the Echo Look is to take a “360” video, where you spin around, so you can see all sides of your outfit.
In addition to taking photos and videos using your voice by asking Alexa, you can use the Echo Look app (Android | iOS). The app shows you a live feed of the camera, which is delayed by about a second, and you can then press the shutter button in the app to trigger the same photo and video sequences described above.
Privacy is certainly a concern with the Echo Look, since it’s expected to be placed near where you get dressed. Thankfully, the Echo Look app cannot display a live feed of the camera, or take photos/videos, if the device running the app is not on the same WiFi network as the Echo Look. As previously mentioned, the app likewise cannot view/trigger the camera in any way if the mute/disable button on the Echo Look is engaged. When the live video feed is brought up in the app, the Echo Look will beep once and continuously pulse the LED light ring white the entire time the video feed is being viewed. If the Echo Look volume is set to zero, the beep is not heard, but the light ring does remain lit to indicate live video is being viewed.
The rest of the Echo Look app is fairly straightforward. The “HOME” section just displays your latest photo and lets you quickly submit it for a “Style Check,” more on that shortly. The “LOOKS” section is a gallery of all your photos and videos, separated by day and month. You can mark photos and videos as favorites and view only those items in the favorites tab. Interestingly, when you view a photo’s details, you can see the weather forecast for the day the photo was taken, and can enter a note to “describe your look” in that photo for your own records. There’s also an “Explore Similar Items” button on the photo detail page, but I could never get it to show any results. Lastly, the “STYLE CHECK” section lists all of your past style checks and lets you create a new one.
Style check is a free service that allows you to submit two photos to see which outfit looks better. An AI uses machine learning and takes into account fit, color, styling, and current trends to determine which outfit looks best. Actual fashion specialists are supposed to be involved somehow, but it’s not entirely clear if an actual person is making the final decision each time or not. I usually got back the result of a style check within a minute.
The whole fashion aspect of the Echo Look actually impressed me more than I thought it would. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a trusted person to comfortably ask about how you look in an outfit, I can certainly see the appeal of the Echo Look for this reason alone. The whole process of getting a quick second opinion on clothes is so simple, I can absolutely see myself using the style check feature … that is if I didn’t already have my wife to smack me upside the head and tell me to go change my clothes when I put on a wrinkled shirt out of sheer laziness. Even though the Echo Look is marketed as a “style assistant,” and I was impressed by those features, the fashion aspect never really interested me. I bought it primarily to see if there was any non-fashion appeal to having a voice activated camera in the house.
What I liked most about the Echo Look was how it completely removes the awkwardness of taking selfies and makes it effortless to take fun impromptu pictures at home with loved ones. When my son was born, a friend told me to take pictures often because time will fly and I’ll regret not capturing every moment. My son is now 2, time sure has flown by, and what I’d love to have is a picture with him every day. Since getting the Echo Look, taking at least a picture a day has been easy and fun to do. So, for me, that’s the best thing about the Echo Look.
If you asked me a week ago if a voice activated camera that gives fashion advice is worth $200, I certainly would have said no. But if you offered me $200 a year from now to trade away a gallery full of daily photos of my family, I’d certainly keep the photos.