Virtual Dressing Rooms: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Developed initially for home computers, the AR fitting room took advantage of the increasing popularity of webcams and Flash platform to tap into a new social trend and new industry sector, valued at 100 billion per year in the UK alone: ecommerce.
Providing a real-life shopping experience from the comfort of people’s homes is seen as the foundation of online shopping. Achieving this through an AR application is however not as straight-forward and easy as it seems.
After passing the marker phase and adding some other great features such as social media sharing or improved motion controls, the AR virtual shopper is very often still only a 2D image of a garment stuck to your body representation. There are other aspects to clothing like the fabric, cut, feel, stitching, quality, or sizing that can’t be replicated through augmented reality, or at least not yet.
On The Go
With the advent of smartphones and other ‘smart’ mobile devices, augmented reality found a new market to thrive in. Looking beyond technology developments, what is one of the key features that characterises our modern society? Mobility: humans are continuously on the go, which means the reality they experience is also highly dynamic. And what better way to augment the reality then through mobile AR apps?!
This was also in the minds of fashion retailers when they launched the mobile virtual dressing room. However, this no longer focuses on the functional aspects of the application (nobody wants to try on clothes in a park while looking on a 4” screen for example) but on the entertainment aspect. Fuelled by AR’s novelty, and bringing some other technologies under the same roof such as geo-location and three-axis gyroscope, the mobile AR fitting room becomes a simple fun game.
Enough to generate a sudden interest from media and consumers, these apps have already been used by big names such as Tommy Hilfiger, Swarovski or Debenhams. But with more retailers expected to jump on the bandwagon, it’s only a matter of time until this strategy will no longer be effective.
In The Store
The launch of Microsoft Kinect and its 3D technology has not only disrupted the game console market but also the augmented reality industry. It led to a new generation of virtual dressing rooms, firstly demonstrated by TopShop in one of their Russian shops using a ‘hacked’ Kinect. This allows customers to see themselves onscreen with a 3D copy of the garment.
Going beyond their still existing limitations, why would anyone need a virtual dressing room in a shop where they already have the real thing? Despite the delight of experiencing the latest technology in AR, it is real, more practical and sometimes even quicker and easier to try the clothes yourself.
Apart from PR coverage, there is one other critical reason for which retailers may still want to have such technologies in their offline stores: to educate and raise awareness about the AR tools available to their online customers.