TechWeekEurope Tests John Lewis’ Virtual Fashion Mirrors

SoftwareWorkspace

Trying on clothes without getting undressed? Now that’s augmented reality!

When TechWeekEurope heard John Lewis was introducing two Virtual Fashion Mirrors at its Oxford Street store, we grew giddy with excitement. Trying on virtual clothes using a real-size image of yourself in real-time – what’s not to like?

However, there was one tiny problem with this space-age technology. In an unjustifiable act of discrimination, John Lewis decided to limit the trial to its female clients. That wasn’t enough to stop an all-male crew of technology enthusiasts, and on Friday, we set off to the store, to try on some dresses.

Virtual cross-dressing

Are you sure about that with your hair, Steve?
Bold colour choice, Max!

The 6 by 3 foot John Lewis StyleMe mirrors, developed by Cisco, in conjunction with C-instore, The Team and Aitech, each have built-in cameras which capture the shopper’s body dimensions and position. The mirrors then superimpose clothing over the customer’s on-screen image.

StyleMe is controlled by hand gestures, and the process seriously reminded us of playing with Xbox Kinect. The black bar of the sensor visible on the device did nothing to shatter this illusion. According to the staff, StyleMe maps your joints, including elbows and knees, much like motion-capture. This allows a fair amount of movement while wearing virtual garb.

After being introduced to the controls, we were left alone with over 500 options of clothing and accessories. Here’s what happened:

 

Other than not having any clothing for men, the StyleMe mirrors work fantastically well. The controls are intuitive, the interface layout was easy to understand. We did have a few glitches while saving and printing out the pictures, but these will no doubt be ironed out in the coming weeks.

StyleMe allows shoppers to create a whole virtual collection which can be e-mailed to them, including images of their selected items, price and the QR codes, linking to John Lewis website. Shoppers can even share their new look with friends and family via social networking sites, and receive feedback before they spend £225 on that Reiss coat.

“We strive to have a market leading approach to innovative new technology and providing our customers with the very best shopping experience. We think our virtual fashion mirrors will be a lot of fun for our customers and we hope they will enjoy experimenting with them, as much as we have,” said Andrea O’Donnell, commercial director at John Lewis.

Overall, StyleMe feels like entertainment, not shopping. It will not replace traditional changing rooms just yet, as the selection of items is limited, and they don’t “fit” perfectly, lending your image a certain cadaverous quality. What they will do, however, is bring the technology-savvy crowds used to shopping online back into the store. And that, in this economic climate, counts for a lot.

The Virtual Fashion Mirrors will be located in the womenswear department on the first floor of John Lewis Oxford Street for six weeks, from April 20th. If the trial is successful, the mirrors will become a permanent fixture in the retailer’s Exeter store which opens this autumn.

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