Does my cyberass look big in this?

2011-02-26 11:29

Does my bum look big in this? It’s a question all men dread hearing.

It is also a loaded question, and a cruel test of honesty and diplomacy.

It’s a question that inevitably puts husbands or boyfriends between a rock and a couple of nights on the couch, because there really is no right answer (the question is meant to be hypothetical – sort of).

Women trust their friends to be honest, which is why they prefer shopping with their girlfriends and will only drag their husband or boyfriend along as a plan B.

Technology, however, has started to revolutionise the entire retail experience and will eventually spare men hours of waiting outside a changing room and those potentially explosive, trick questions.

If you’ve ever thought of taking a picture of a pair of new shoes you’re lusting after and MMS-ing it to a friend for an opinion, then your shopping experience is about to get a turboboost.

For the past few years, there have been whisperings of a cybershopping experience in which virtual mirrors, internet-enabled change rooms and social networking morph into one futuristic retail adventure.

While the technology has existed for some time, there is always the lag between technological innovation and commercial application.

That gap has now been bridged.Last year, American department store Macy’s ended the techno rumours and launched an experimental Magic Fitting Room.

The process does not involve anything as low-tech and cumbersome as actually having to choose clothes off the shop floor and carry them into a fitting room.

It doesn’t even require you to remove your clothes.

Here’s how it works:Images of the latest merchandise are loaded on to the store’s iPads.

You browse through the collections and decide what you would like to see on yourself.

Once inside the Magic Fitting Room, you simply “flick” your selected items from the iPad on to an interactive mirror.From there, with the miracle of “gesture control”, you move the various items on to your reflection to see if you like the styles or not.

Once you have a look that you’re happy with, you can immediately download the look to Facebook or send it via email and ask your friends for a second opinion.

It’s like a fusion of Minority Report and The Devil Wears Prada, only real.

Fits.me – also launched last year – is an Estonian start-up that uses a virtual mannequin that is programmed with your measurements and mimics your exact shape.

It enables you to go online and “try on” clothing from a variety of retailers before purchasing.

The robot is able to replicate more than 2?000 body shapes and tests show that the robot increased sales by 300%, while reducing returns by 28%.

The fact that many designers, as well as retailers, have started using virtual fashion shows as a means of marketing their ranges direct to the public adds another interesting layer to this cyberexperience.

A new mantra of “see, click, buy” is fast becoming the norm in the online shopping arena.

There is no longer the need to wait for the next season to buy something you see on a catwalk, nor is there a reason to rely on the opinions of the traditional fashion police (the fashion editors) to decide what you should or shouldn’t be wearing.

The consumer can now deftly sidestep the middleman in so many ways, and technology is providing the tools to do so.Mass personalisation is the next step, and has already started.

In Paris, Adidas’s new global flagship store features a futuristic “microinnovation centre”, which includes a three-metre-long runway called the “feet scanner”.

The runway is equipped with sensors that can detect the pressure of your feet while you run and is programmed to design the most customer-specific shoe to date.

Once your gait is assessed, you can choose any combination of shoe style, along with your personal preferences of the various parts, to accompany your posture-perfect running shoe.

When this customisation process is complete, you can move to the adjoining “cube” where a 3D rendition of your shoe will be beamed on to your reflection, and with the help of infrared touch screens and “gesture translation”, you will be able to assemble the rest of your running kit from the store’s virtual catalogue.

This kind of interactive experience, coupled with an end product that is hyperpersonalised, is not only going to appeal to fashionistas or girlfriends doing a mall run, it throws the net wide open to sportsmen and, by association, the reluctant husbands and boyfriends who previously didn’t enjoy shopping.

Just give the boys a new interactive toy to play with and they too will be asking: “Does my boep look big in this?”

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit www.fluxtrends.com

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