Who’s Your Favorite (AI) Designer?

By Anya Ferring

While a number of forward-thinking retailers are already using social networks like Instagram and Pinterest to track the latest fashion trends, it appears Amazon intends to go one step further and use this information to actually design clothing. Researchers at the e-commerce behemoth recently revealed their algorithmic-based projects at an Amazon-organized workshop that mostly featured academic researchers who were exploring ways for machines to understand fashion trends.

Amazon research labs are currently working to push their algorithmic approach on several machine-learning systems to not only identify and react to different images of style and clothing, but to perhaps even create the upcoming fashion trends simply by analyzing the labels attached to images. They have also developed an algorithm that learns about a particular style of fashion from images, and can then generate new items in similar styles from scratch—essentially, an AI fashion designer. While researchers were quick to comment that the level of design innovation is still at a very crude stage, this work is still quite innovative because computers usually require extensive labeling in order to learn from visual information.

In the meantime, the company has already sought to expand its apparel business through developing its own clothing brands, investing in high-quality photography for products, and launching Prime Wardrobe, which lets customers try on clothes before buying them. Its Echo Look app will even give you feedback on your outfits.

It is not difficult to imagine the path the company may hope to forge: Amazon spots a trend, quickly designs clothes via AI showcasing said trend, and then uses their network to produce the apparel on-demand.

Can AI ever take the place of a human fashion designer? While it still may be too soon to tell, the fact remains that we are at an unprecedented moment in human history where we have almost unlimited access to an ever-increasing amount of customer’s visual data to work with. Who knows how far it will go?