Amazon gathers body-type data by inviting volunteers to be scanned, lost and photographed. As spotted by Mashable the company runs a study to learn about diversity in body shapes, and offers a $ 25 gift certificate for a 30-minute deal in New York. Participants will take a survey and consent to 3D scans (plus images and videos) of their bodies – first in their daily outfits, then in formfitting clothes.
The study is run by Amazon Body Labs, originally a startup that Amazon bought in 2017. Body Labs produced detailed 3D body models for shopping and gaming; as Mashable notes, it grew out of an attempt to identify criminals with computer technology. And Amazon has collected such body data before. The Wall Street Journal reported a long-term study in 201[ads1]8, when Amazon asked to scan participants several times over a 20-week period, and measure body shape changes over time.
Here, Amazon asks for a much smaller commitment over a shorter period: it takes participants through June 30 at one of two New York City locations. The company promises that it will use the data "solely for internal product research and not for marketing purposes." It also promises to give the fashionable clothes that volunteers will wear – a bikini is "preferred" for women, although they can also wear shorts and sports bra.
Amazon does not specify the exact type of research, but it is probably interested in using body scanning tech for products such as Amazon Echo Look, a "style assistant" camera that takes pictures and analyzes them to give fashion advice. For example, a home scan can let people almost try on clothes – something that online stores have tried to perfect for years.
The outlook for Amazon to gather detailed information on consumer bodies is scary, but for now this is a rather limited study. If Amazon wants to use 3D scanning in commercial technology, it's important to gather information about different body shapes – it's far better than relying on a limited set of data points that can be skewed by race or gender disorder. And there are plenty of weirder, more invasive volunteer research ventures elsewhere. But there is apparently a brief nod to how privacy regulation can change the behavior of the Amazon: If you are from Illinois – a state known for its strong biometric privacy protection – then there is no body scan (or gift card) for you.