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USA: Amazon taps AI to drive fashion recommendations

Amazon.com last week introduced StyleSnap, a feature that makes fashion recommendations based on user-submitted photos.

Users begin by clicking the camera icon in the corner of the Amazon app and then take a photo or upload a photograph or screenshot of a fashion look they like. The app returns recommendations for similar items on Amazon that match the look in the photo. Users are able to filter suggestions across brand, pricing and reviews.

“The simplicity of the customer experience belies the complexity of the technology behind it,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of worldwide consumer for Amazon, in introducing the feature last week at Amazon’s re: MARS (machine learning, automation, robotics, and space) 2019 conference.

Indeed, a blog entry expounded on how StyleSnap’s deep learning algorithms are able to identify items within lifestyle images and indoor images with dim lighting and also classify those items into categories like “fit-and-flair dresses” or “flannel shirts.”

The technology can be “trained” to identify the outfits by feeding it a series of images.

Amazon wrote, “To have neural networks identify a greater number of classes, we can stack a greater number of layers on top of each other. The first few layers typically learn concepts such as edges and colors, while the middle layers identify patterns such as ‘floral’ or ‘denim’. After having passed through all of the layers, the algorithm can accurately identify concepts like fit and outfit style in an image.”

StyleSnap also solves the “vanishing gradient problem” when neural networks “will stall and eventually degrade after a certain number of layers have been added.” Residual networks are applied to allow the training signal to skip over some layers in the network. Amazon wrote, “A unique method developed by Amazon researchers allows the network to learn new concepts while also remembering things it has learned in the past.”

StyleSnap also promises to help fashion influencers expand their communities and supports Amazon’s Influencer Program through which Instagrammers and bloggers earn commissions by recommending Amazon items. Amazon also just teamed up with popular Instagram influencers to launch The Drop, a streetwear label.

Asos, Stitch Fix and Uniqlo are some other retailers promoting AI-driven style suggestions for customers.

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