Start-up creates virtual dressing rooms for online shoppers

July 11, 2013 10:52:21 PM PDT
The online world doesn't have fitting rooms for shoppers -- but soon it might. A Milpitas start-up thinks the same technology magic that makes virtual reality popular in movies will fit consumers.

"Nowadays, the consumer actually really expects something that looks fully realistic that you're fully able to interact with, change the garment, rotate the user, have the user walk around," Phisix Fashion Labs founder and CEO Jonathan Su said.

But now, Su, a Stanford Ph.D., is tapping into Hollywood special effects to allow online shoppers to know whether a garment will fit or not. Consumers input key measurements, which will create an avatar with their body shape. Then, color coding pinpoints where the fabric might bind or feel tight.

"We actually have the ability to measure material properties, not just stretch and sheer, but friction, also how the material reflects light, and we take off of that into account when we compute the fit," Su said.

Just like advanced movie animation, clothes move in sync with the body.

"The pants move around, the top moves around, we even have a scarf flowing around in the background," Su said.

Phisix calls it a "virtual fitting room." It can be personalized to the point of putting your own face on the avatar. For retailers, it could mean more sales and higher customer satisfaction. For consumers, it might mean fewer trips to the post office, returning those extra two or three garments you buy in different sizes just to make sure one of them fits.

Market research indicates this new technology might lift denim sales in particular, which many shoppers say they don't buy online.

"There's a very, very idiosyncratic preference people have," Phisix Fashion Labs' Mihir Naware said. "Sometimes the cuts differ. The materials are so different. So I think that we are really suited for denim and tight-fitting garments first and then more broadly. Of course we can do dresses and everything else."


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