Amazon Aims to Be the Next Big Fashion Brand with Body Labs Acquisition

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.

Tech

As Ford pushes into electric vehicles, U.S. union aims to save jobs

DETROIT (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers is talking with Ford Motor Co (F.N) about ways to avoid layoffs as the No. 2 U.S. automaker builds more electric vehicles, a senior union official told Reuters on Thursday.

Ford told investors Tuesday it planned to slash $ 14 billion in costs over the next five years and shift investments away from internal combustion engines and sedans to develop more trucks, plus electric and hybrid cars.

“We’ve been doing our due diligence to find out how much it (electrification) means to us,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, head of the union’s Ford department said in a telephone interview. “We put them on notice early on that we want to be part of this process.”

“Up to this point they (Ford) have been agreeable that it’s in the best interest of the company and also our members for us to be part of the process,” he added.

Ford’s push into electric comes after Detroit rival General Motors Co (GM.N) unveiled plans to add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023.

Ford’s presentation to investors this week under new chief executive Jim Hackett, included a slide touting a 30 percent reduction in “hours per unit” to build electric vehicles.

Fewer hours mean fewer workers.

German automaker Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) warned last month that electric Mercedes models would initially be just half as profitable as conventional alternatives – forcing the group to find savings by outsourcing more component manufacturing, which may in turn threaten German jobs.

The UAW’s Settles said he had met one-on-one with Hackett, a former CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase Inc (SCS.N) and in a meeting with union leaders in recent weeks.

He said Hackett’s message had been that he wants to find new opportunities for UAW workers as electrification evolves.

“The assembly may be different, but he’s not looking to eliminate any jobs,” Settles said of Hackett. “He’s been consistent in what he’s saying and I‘m optimistic he means it.”

The UAW vice president said the union and automaker had assembled teams to discuss future jobs, including for production workers and skilled trades workers, Settles said.

Settles said Ford’s announcement in March that it would invest $ 200 million on a new data center in Michigan could create new union-represented, technology-related jobs.

“We need further communications on what it means in terms of jobs,” he said.

Ford has completed 85 percent of its 2015 union contract target of creating or retaining 8,500 union jobs by 2019 and could hit 100 percent by the end of 2017, Settles said.

A Ford spokeswoman said the company and the UAW are in “constant communications about the business.”

Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Andrew Hay

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Bain Capital aims to list Toshiba chip unit in Tokyo within a few years

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital LP said on Thursday that it aims to list Toshiba Corp’s chip unit on the Tokyo Stock Exchange within a few years.

Bain, which led a consortium that signed an $ 18 billion deal for Toshiba’s prized chip unit last week, also said it hopes to settle legal disputes with Western Digital Corp, Toshiba’s joint venture partner, at an early stage.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Junko Fujita; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

NY regulation aims to raise bank security standards

Next week, New York State will begin a 45-day public comment period on its new financial industry cybersecurity regulation — and, so far, security experts have a favorable view of the proposal.

Under the new regulations, banks and insurance companies doing business in New York State will need to establish a cybersecurity program, appoint a Chief Information Security Officer and monitor the cybersecurity policies of their business partners.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this is the first such regulation in the country. “This regulation helps guarantee the financial services industry upholds its obligation to protect consumers and ensure that its systems are sufficiently constructed to prevent cyber-attacks to the fullest extent possible,” he said in a statement.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here


All articles