EP 49: Bezos Bots

Jeff Bezos is not really a robot. This is for illustration purposes only. Please don’t sue us.

José and Todd finally expose Amazon’s plans to take over the world. Or, maybe just our homes. But it’s happening! We have proof!

In this episode:

  • Amazon is your new stalker
  • Kidbox
  • Can algorithms dictate taste?
  • Weird News of the Week

Amazon is your new stalker

Amazon has proved (and consumers have repeatedly voted) that UTILITY & CONVENIENCE trumps PRIVACY.

“Amazon is the only entity that can get in your home without your permission other than the fire department or police department (and police need a warrant).” — Scott Galloway, NYU Stern School of Business Professor on CNBC April 24th.
  • The Echo lets you do such things as track your Amazon orders, buy products easily and play music from Amazon Prime music. And the Amazon Key (packages in car trunks) helps customers avoid so-called “porch pirates” who might otherwise steal packages from Amazon’s customers. Amazon Key isn’t very good yet, but it does set out to solve a very specific problem for some
  • Amazon believes the option could appeal to customers who don’t want packages left out on their porch or those who need to receive an order while away from home. The vehicles need to be parked in a publicly accessible area that is in the vicinity of an address in a customer’s Amazon address book to qualify for this delivery option.
  • Delivery people get GPS and license plate information in order to find the right vehicle. When they request access to the car, Amazon says it confirms that they have the right package and are at the right location before the vehicle gets unlocked. Customers receive notifications when the package is on the way and after it has been delivered.
  • People familiar with the project speculate that the Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices. Prototypes of the robots have advanced cameras and computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car.
  • The consumer robot market will be worth about $15 billion a year by 2023, according to an estimate from Research and Markets, which would be up from about $5.4 billion this year.

Kidbox

Similar to StitchFix, Kidbox also curates a selection of around half a dozen pieces of clothing and other accessories (but not shoes), which are based on a child’s “style profile” filled out online by mom or dad.

Kidbox’s boxes are sent out seasonally for spring, summer, back-to-school, fall and winter. However, unlike StitchFix, Kidbox isn’t a subscription service — you can skip boxes at any time, and you’re not charged a “styling fee” or any other add-on fees.

How it works:

The profile asks for the child’s age, sizes, and questions about the child’s clothing preferences — like what colors they like and don’t like, as well as other styles to avoid — like if you have a child who hates wearing dresses, for example, or one who has an aversion to the color orange.

“Those answers feed into a proprietary algorithm — we’re very data science and tech focused,” explains Kidbox CEO Miki Berardelli.
“That algorithm hits up against our product catalog at any given moment, and presents to our human styling team the perfect box for — just as an example, a size 7 sporty boy. And from there, the styling team looks at the box that’s been served up, the customer’s history, if they’re a repeat customer, the customer’s geography, and any notes [the customer] added to their account,” she says.

Can algorithms dictate taste?

Algorithmic experiences are matters of taste: the question of what we like and why we like it, and what it means that taste is increasingly dictated by black-box robots like the camera on my shelf.

“In his 2017 book Taste, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben digs up the roots of the word. Historically, it is defined as a form of knowledge through pleasure, from perceiving the flavor of food to judging the quality of an object. Taste is an essentially human capacity, to the point that it is almost subconscious: We know whether we like something or not before we understand why.”
“Natural taste is not a theoretical knowledge; it’s a quick and exquisite application of rules which we do not even know,” wrote Montesquieu in 1759. This unknowingness is important. We don’t calculate or measure if something is tasteful to us; we simply feel it. Displacing the judgment of taste partly to algorithms, as in the Amazon Echo Look, robs us of some of that humanity.

Weird News of the Week — Adidas launching a “dad shoe” for summer 2018

This gem will be on sale in June for around $130.
“The Yung 1 is expected to go on sale in June for around $130. That makes it a much lower price than its high-fashion peers, but the shoe’s design stays a cut above what your dad actually wears.”
“In fact, the Yung takes inspiration from the old. The shoe’s upper is based on the Falcon Dorf, an Adidas running shoe from the ’90s. The sole, however, is all new. It has been updated for the modern world, though it is no longer going to be the pinnacle of running technology.”

Enjoy this episode? Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher! You can find us wherever your favorite podcasts are.

If you enjoy the show, leave us a review! 👍

Like what you read? Give Todd Harris a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.