Home Retailer Lets Online Shoppers Virtually Try on Clothes Using Augmented Reality

Retailer Lets Online Shoppers Virtually Try on Clothes Using Augmented Reality

Have you been waiting for more practical implementations of augmented reality (AR) technology outside of gaming and marketing initiatives? So have we. That’s what makes the technology Zugara is launching now so interesting. It has teamed up with U.K.-based online clothing retailer Banana Flame to offer a virtual dressing room of sorts which lets online shoppers “try on” the clothes featured on the retailer’s website.

Using the computer’s webcam and Zugara’s AR e-commerce software dubbed “Webcam Social Shopper,” shoppers can immediately see what clothes look like on them and can ask friends for an opinion via Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, trying on clothes virtually isn’t the same as trying on clothes in real life. You don’t know how the fabric is cut, how tight or loose it is, how it will hang, how well it’s stitched, or any of the other factors that go into making a real-world purchasing decision. However, it’s a step closer to emulating that real world experience than anything we’ve ever had before. It’s also kind of fun…well, when it works.

Using the computer’s webcam, visitors to Banana Flame’s website can instantly try on any of the clothing items it sells. To start the process, you have to step a few feet back from the computer, making sure the camera can see your face. The garment will then automatically position itself on top of what you’re currently wearing. Using Kinect-like motions, you can then touch virtual buttons to make minor adjustments to the garment’s position on your body. In fact, the technology seems similar to a Kinect hack that does basically the same thing.

You can also swipe your arm to navigate between the controls provided in the software. These controls let you change the garment’s color, move it around or take a photo of you “wearing” the item. You can then immediately share that photo with friends via Facebook and Twitter using the software or download it to your computer.

In theory, the system sounds great, but in practice, it still needs some work. For example, it was completely frozen when we tried to use it on our Mac (in both Safari and Chrome), but worked well on our Windows PC (in IE). This appears to be related to the software’s use of Adobe Flash – the Mac webcam is not set by default to work with Flash. There’s a workaround for this, but an average user wouldn’t know to try it. And the website doesn’t offer instructions.

Also, we have to admit, using AR in this way is not anything like actually trying on clothes.

But it’s a start. And not just a start at using AR for virtual shopping purposes, but a start for AR to be used for anything that’s not some gimmicky marketing push, like AR-enabled posters or sports tickets. For that, we’re grateful.

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