Monday, January 20, 2014

Amazon's New Patent Claims It Can Read Minds, Will Ship Stuff To You Before You Place An Order

Amazon sells a lot of stuff, and we mean a lot of stuff. And that stuff has allowed it to refine its recommendation engine to the point where Amazon is so confident in it, it's filed a patent to essentially just have the stuff you want already packed and ready to ship out.

Yes, Amazon . But the idea sounds like a recipe for disaster, :

In the patent document, Amazon says delays between ordering and receiving purchases "may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants." So Amazon says it may box and ship products it expects customers in a specific area will want - based on previous orders and other factors -- but haven't yet ordered. According to the patent, the packages could wait at the shippers' hubs or on trucks until an order arrives.

They don't go quite so far as to just ship you stuff before you order it, but essentially, if you buy one DVD, the rest in Amazon's recommendation engine will be boxed up and sitting there, with your name on the label, just waiting for you to ship it out.

And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The entire problem here is that Amazon's recommendation engine is just not that good. Oh, it's good as recommendation engines go, and it's vastly improved over the years, but this is still an engine where if you get one novelty country song stuck in your head and buy it, it thinks you want everything Nashville threw on shelves in the 1980s. Hey, you listen to and not want to own it.

The simple fact of the matter is that recommendation engines are mostly good at stereotyping people, and that's unlikely to change any time soon; there's no recommendation engine that can figure out all your specific likes and dislikes. Telling one you like hip-hop means it thinks you enjoy Lil Wayne and A Tribe Called Quest in equal measure. It seems, if Amazon actually applies this patent, mostly what will happen is a lot of full boxes left orphaned in warehouses.


(Image courtesy of on Flickr.)
Full Post

No comments:

Post a Comment