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Amazon added a feature to the camera-equipped Echo Show device that enables it to visually identify consumer goods. Users can ask, "Alexa, what am I holding?" and the device will narrate back a description of the item. Amazon designed the feature — aptly named "Show and Tell" — to help blind and low-vision users identify groceries.
While Amazon added the Show and Tell feature for visually impaired users, the underlying technology could eventually accelerate the company's grocery ambitions. Show and Tell relies on computer vision and machine learning to identify consumer goods. Amazon could leverage this capability to further streamline the Alexa ordering process.
Users could, for instance, hold up an empty jar of peanut butter and ask Alexa to order a new jar. Amazon seems to be moving toward a tech-enabled seamless shopping experience as a means of achieving its "Grocery Shopping for Everyone" ambition. For instance, it enables same-day fulfillment of online grocery orders through Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods pickups, and Amazon Go stores automate the checkout experience through computer vision and machine learning. The Echo Show could serve as an entry point into a streamlined grocery ecosystem, ready to fulfill the needs of consumers directly from their kitchens.
By embedding computer vision capabilities within Alexa, Amazon could remedy issues that deter users from placing grocery orders through smart devices. Amazon has long pursued the strategy of making ordering as seamless as possible to encourage purchases on its platform. However, consumers have not taken to voice interfaces as a means for grocery shopping: Only 2% of 50 million Alexa device owners completed a purchase using voice in 2018, according to The Information. And of the customers who purchased something using Alexa, approximately 90% did not make a second purchase.
An Alexa device with object recognition capabilities could streamline the ordering process, particularly for requests of restocking existing groceries. Visual ordering could become even more powerful if Amazon gets customers to place cameras directly in refrigerators or pantries, enabling Alexa to automatically order low-stocked foods.
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