Amazon releases Visual ID facial recognition feature on Echo Show 15


Amazon / Screenshot

During its virtual launch event for the Echo Show 15 on Tuesday, Amazon unveiled a new facial recognition feature for the smart home device called Visual ID. The feature lets Alexa show you personalized recommendations, calendars, to-do lists and more when your face is captured by the camera.

The Echo Show 15 comes with the AZ2 processor. Last year’s Echo and Echo Dot speakers had the AZ1 processor, which enabled enhanced voice processing. The AZ2 gives the Echo Show 15 computer vision processing capabilities. 

Because the chip can process what the camera is seeing, all the computer vision processing happens on device without sending anything to the cloud. Visual ID is completely optional and turned off by default. You’ll have to opt-in and enroll your facial profile to use the feature. This profile won’t be sent to any other devices.

Amazon’s controversial use of facial recognition technology in its other smart home products has seen significant pushback from privacy advocates in the past. 

In December 2019, thousands of Amazon Ring users’ personal information was exposed, leading us to stop recommending Ring products (Ring’s approach to privacy has drawn heavy criticism in the past two years. For more, read David Priest’s deep dive into Ring’s current policies.) Ring has since updated its security policies, mandating two-factor authentication, adding end-to-end video encryption and introducing CAPTCHA and authenticator app support.