The virtual dressing room-augmented reality thing has been around for a few years, and the first iterations by companies like Zugara were pretty interesting but well off from truly ready for the marketplace. As you might expect, the applications keep getting better (including Zugara’s), but a new one by a company called FaceCake looks just about there.
It definitely would work in private homes, and while it is still more gimmick than utility, what FaceCake has could have a fit in the right kind of retailer – particularly as a promotion as opposed to a standard part of the customer experience.
What’s different with this software is the experience looks less like those paper cutouts that really old people like me remember as diversions for kids, and more like virtual clothes. The first iterations of AR were flat overlays, whereas this tech allows people to turn to the side and switch hands when holding things.
The other difference is speed and utility. Things happen more quickly and the experience has the sort of navigation and feel of an app, except people are looking at themselves.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this week, a Calabasas company was giving demonstrations of Swivel, a real-time virtual dressing room that takes a lot of the hassle out of shopping — no more long waits in the fitting room line loaded down with an armful of clothes, or the tedious process of getting dressed and undressed several times during one trip to the mall.
To use the Swivel system, which works by utilizing motion-sensing technology, stand a few feet in front of a webcam or Microsoft Kinect device. A live image of yourself will appear on a connected television or computer screen, along with a selection of categories like clothing, jewelry and handbags.
Select a category — say, dresses — by waving your hand over it. A lineup of gowns will appear on the right-hand panel; another wave of the arm selects the dress you want to try on and digitally overlays it over the live image of yourself.
Turn to the side and the dress will move with you; the product takes into account your unique body type, and items appear to be form-fitting. You can layer accessories onto the look by selecting necklaces and belts, or change the background image to a red carpet or city scene to put the look into context. The Swivel system also gives users outfit recommendations and enables them to send an image of the final look to their friends for approval.
FaceCake Marketing Technologies, which created Swivel using proprietary software, hopes the system will be used by retailers, in malls and at home.
FaceCake recently did a mall tour in Southern California to debut the system to shoppers. The average shopper tried on 66% of the items available, or about 45 products, far more than he or she would typically try on in a physical dressing room, said FaceCake Chief Executive Linda Smith.
The company says an in-home version, using Kinect, will be available by year-end, and that some retailers are looking at the system. I could definitely envision young women using this as they hang out, and the loopy 17-year-old still in me can just see groups of boys falling off furniture laughing as their buddies try on virtual dresses.