Can a camera on your computer help you buy the correct clothing size online?

Imagine if you could buy clothes online with more confidence.
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I'm not one of those women who enjoy shopping, and trying on clothing is even worse. Those three-way mirrors are unforgiving, and even when I try something on and buy it, I might still decide once I'm home that I don't like how something looks or fits. I love shopping online, but then I lose the ability to try anything on. And if I need to return it, I often have to pay the postage. Plus, all manufacturers size their clothes differently. But what if there was a way to shop online and still make sure things fit?

A company called Bodymetrics may have found the perfect solution. They work with PrimeSense, the company which developed the 3D sensors used in the Microsoft Kinect. The sensors will not only capture your height, frame and waist size, but they'll also map the contours that set your body apart from everyone else's. So if you've had issues like pants fitting in the waist but not the hips, for example, body mapping could keep you from buying those ill-fitting pants in the first place. After completing a scan, which should take just a few seconds, your virtual self would be ready to try on clothes. You'd select a store and then scroll through clothes with gestures before choosing an item. You'd know right away whether something was too big, too small or just right, and you can turn your virtual self around to see how those pants fit everywhere. The software even takes into account things like the amount of stretch, or "give," in different types of fabric.

This isn't the first attempt at virtual shopping. Two applications that premiered at the 2011 CES, Swivel and Web Cam Social Shopper, let you try on clothes ... sort of. Both technologies focused more on seeing how things looked on you in terms of style and color than seeing whether they actually fit. Bodymetrics is the first to actually take measurements, and the company has already deployed similar technology in Selfridges, a London department store, to help customers find the right pair of jeans. It's also tried out the technology at other department stores, like a Bloomingdale's in Los Angeles.

Bodymetrics' demonstration at CES 2012 used a computer, but in the future the technology may be offered on the Xbox, too. Critics argue that virtual clothing shopping will never fully replace visiting a clothing store -- the best in augmented reality technology still can't guarantee a perfect fit, and many shoppers enjoy the tactile experience. But it could still make online shopping that much better. Bodymetrics estimates a price point of around $150 -- which doesn't seem too steep if it keeps me from having to return stuff.

Author's Note

If you can't tell, I love this idea. I don't have Microsoft Kinect because I don't even have time to play the video games I already own. But I might seriously consider getting one (assuming my laptop webcam wouldn't be sufficient) now that developers are looking at broadening the ways you can use the 3D sensor technology. No doubt perfecting Michael Jackson's dance moves is a great use of it already, but why not consider the practical as well? If Bodymetrics' technology is as accurate as it sounds, I'll do my best to try it out as soon as it's available.

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Sources

  • Aamonth. Dave. "Kinect Camera Lets You Try On Clothes Without Trying On Clothes." Time Techland. Jan. 13, 2012. (July 3, 2012) http://techland.time.com/2012/01/13/kinect-camera-tech-lets-you-try-on-clothes-without-trying-on-clothes/
  • Bodymetrics (July 3, 2012) http://bodymetrics.com/index.php
  • Hicks, Jennifer. "Bodymetrics Creates 3D Body Scanner for New Look." Forbes Magazine. Oct. 24, 2011. (July 2, 2012) http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2011/10/24/bodymetrics-creates-3d-body-scanner-for-new-look/
  • Laird, Sam. "Clothes Shopping with Bodymetrics Lets You Try It On for Virtual Size." Mashable. Jan. 9, 2012. (July 3, 2012) http://mashable.com/2012/01/09/bodymetrics-augmented-reality-shopping/#42125PURE-Sensia
  • Takahashi, Dean. "Virtual shopping with Bodymetrics will show how outfits fit on your body." Venture Beat. Jan. 12, 2012. (July 2, 2012) http://venturebeat.com/2012/01/12/virtual-shopping-with-bodymetrics-shows-where-outfits-will-be-too-tight-on-your-body/
  • Van Grove, Jennifer. "Augmented Reality Shopping: Not The Right Fit (Yet)." Mashable. March 2, 2011. (July 3, 2012) http://mashable.com/2011/03/02/online-shopping-apps/