(Dis)Trusting Technology : 

  • Mattel has canceled their Amazon Echo-like product for kids, citing widespread criticism around data privacy and concerns about negative impacts on child development. Following the mega-scale data breaches in recent years (Target, Yahoo!, Equifax & others), it's clear that virtually any data stored remotely is potentially vulnerable. If worries about child privacy were enough to sink Mattel's product, why should similar products focused on adults (but certainly used in households with children) not suffer a similar societal rejection? 



  • Amazon has acquired the startup Body Labs, which had been developing technologies to capture "true to life" 3D models of people's bodies for purposes of health tracking and more perfectly fitting garments (one of their projects was with the U.S. military to create better fitting body armor for female soldiers). Combining such technology with the deep pockets and sprawling reach of Amazon is a big step for the mainstreaming of mass-customization, which had been a periodic value-proposition claim of 3D printing companies, with little success to date (outside of acute needs like patient-specific medical devices). Without an easy and accessible market for purchasing customized goods, being able to produce them was an achievement without an outlet. This acquisition and Amazon's recent streak of investments in fashion tech could be a huge step in that equation getting balanced out. What's less apparent is whether this promising move towards accessible mass-customization will be an Amazon-takes-all approach, or be a trend enabled by a multitude of smaller technology companies. 




Material Culture:


More next week.