By now, we've grown accustomed to our devices listening to us. Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, and every other disembodied virtual taskrabbit has been hearing our commands—and who knows what else—for years. But, with its last two smart hub devices, Amazon has pushed one step beyond the microphone, asking users to install cameras in their homes. Yesterday, with the announcement of the Echo Show, Amazon reaffirmed its plan to have Alexa see you in addition to hear you. It's a small step forward in terms of usability, but a major can of worms when it comes to our security and privacy.
Just two weeks ago Amazon introduced the $200 Echo Look, a smart-home hub that includes a built-in camera to help evaluate your outfit before leaving the house. Now, the company has taken another step, introducing its flagship hub, the $229 Echo Show, which has both a 5-megapixel camera and a 7-inch touchscreen display.
Just over two years ago, Rob Brown was transfixed by an eBay auction. He and colleagues Chad Brown (no relation) and James Hashmi were bidding on a record pressing machine. It was the only one the new entrepreneurs could find, and it was in the middle of nowhere—in Russia. No one knew if it worked, or could even be refurbished back into working order. Yet, the bidding was feverish: Brown's team walked away, but the press ultimately sold for some $60,000.
Smartphone cameras aren't very good at taking flattering selfies. The wide angle lenses introduce unpleasant distortion, and the small camera sensors can't produce those blurry backgrounds we see in higher-end portraits. Of course, that doesn't stop people from shooting tons of them. Roughly 24 billion selfies were added to the Google Photos service in 2016, according to the company. Most of them, we're not ashamed to say, were garbage.