This month, not long after acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon quietly bolted on Body Labs, a New York artificial intelligence startup that creates 3D models of real people from photos, with better than 2-centimeter accuracy. Natasha Lomos and Jordan Crook, writing for TechCrunch which broke the acquisition story, commented, "Amazon has been ramping up its own fashion business in recent years, expanding and growing its private label fashion brands."
So what are three possible outcomes from another Amazon acquisition, this one AI? Let's take them one by one.
1. Amazon uses social selling to sell more clothes, sportswear, shoes and jewelry
Amazon has already invested a lot into its product recommendation engine. If you're like me, you scan Amazon's "Recommended for you" a lot--it's good. Body Labs should jump that forward in product categories like clothing, jewelry, and sportswear.
Flo McDavid, director of business development at Body Labs, put it this way just before the acquisition, "While there are tons and tons of Google images of very diverse people, it's hard to find someone who's like you. At Body Labs we've developed artificially intelligence software that understands human body shape from everyday photos. . . . No body scanners, no changing clothes or anything like that--just a simple photo. So we thought, what if we could connect people with similar body shapes so they could be inspired by people like them?"
The Body Labs demo shows people using a selfie to connect them to "shape doppelgangers" on Instagram in clothes that look good. Hear Flo talk more about it in the video below:
2. Amazon Fashion rolls out the red carpet for customers.
Amazon currently has a product--Echo Look--that takes real-time images of customers. It is marketed as a "Hands-Free Camera and Style Assistant with Alexa--includes Style Check to get a second opinion on your outfit." It is not a tough guess that Amazon's second opinion is you can buy three or four more things--just ask Alexa. But seriously, by bolting on Body Labs engine in the background, Amazon could power recommendations around fashion and accessories that work in the real world.
Body Labs VP of Developer Relations Ali Javid said recently in a company YouTube video, "Imagine if an apparel brand or retailer knew the shape of every single one of their customers---imagine how the shopping experience could change. Imagine how the supply chain would be innovated upon. This is possible today with BodyLabs human-aware AI."
3. Amazon grows profitable game developer infrastructure.
In July, Amazon reported just over 4 billion in income from its Amazon Web Services division. Amazon runs its own games studios, distributes Lumberyard, and has GameLift and GameSparks back-end services for multi-player games. Body Labs would be a natural extension for gamers to have to develop photo-realistic, moving body avatars. Adding on this kind of service would continue to expand their digital revenue, so it makes sense, although the company has not commented on this direction.
So, what's next for Amazon?
Integrating Body Labs into the launch of Amazon Prime Wardrobe, a try-before-you-buy clothing discount service now in beta, is an obvious next step--whether or not that integration is obvious to the customer. Echo Look integration also looks to be a no-brainer. Peering a bit further down the line, with big technology companies hungry to acquire production and distribution, it wouldn't be surprising to have Amazon acquire fashion production as well as fashion brand assets in the near future to round out its in-house fashion lines Lark + Ro, Franklin & Freeman, Pinzon, Scout + Ro, and more.