Style Pod makes trying on clothes thing of the past for UAE shoppers

BEIRUT: In 1995, the computerized closet of Cher Horowitz, lead character in the high school flick “Clueless,” seemed a fantastical dream for the cult classic’s millions of teenage followers. A mechanical, rotating closet and digital wardrobe display are kid stuff compared to Engage Production Ltd.’s new “Virtual Style Pod,” which uses 3-D imaging to let shoppers virtually try on clothes without stepping out of their shoes. Customers at The Galleria on the Abu Dhabi island of Al-Maryah had the first chance to try the technology.

Engage, a U.K.-based specialist in interactive technology, designed the pod for Emirates-based company Avantgarde, which came up with the concept and hosted the final product. Another round of shoppers will soon have a chance to try out the style pod, as it will be coming to in London in February.

The technology aims to offer an alternative to the fitting room with life-size mirror technology. The Virtual Style Pod does a full-body scan and then makes 3-D rendering. Similar concepts exist in 2-D, but Engage has built the first 3-D system, said Vanessa Whiteland, a marketing and sale representative from the company.

Galleria shoppers can choose from a range of designer brands whose collections have been digitized as part of the project such as Diesel and Viviane Westwood, Whiteland said.

“You see it from 360 degrees, it swishes, it moves,” Whiteland told The Daily Star. The virtual clothes simulate the fabrics the actual article is made of, giving the user a realistic experience in their digital duds.

The model generated by the Virtual Style Pod is an exact image of the person, meaning the digitized shopper is trying clothes on over whatever they wore to the mall that day.

In places of more conservative dress, like the UAE, the pod also provides a way to try on clothes without getting undressed in a public place. That was part of the reason Avantgarde chose to host the technology in Abu Dhabi, Whiteland said.

It’s a novelty of sorts and perhaps practical for those desiring a quicker shopping experience. But the pod has real potential to create new ways for brands to market merchandise, Amelia Kallman, Engage’s innovation manager, told The Daily Star.

Users can send their simulated images from the pod to their social media accounts, turning customers into brand ambassadors as they show off designer items to their Facebook friends and Instagram followers.

The system also collects data for the host mall and companies about what shoppers are trying on. These brands can then send tailored messages to shoppers, such as to let consumers know when there are sales on most-tried-on items.

It also creates a one-on-one relationship between brands and their customers, Kallman said.

The next step is to turn more designer collections into digitized catalogues for the Virtual Style Pod.

“It’s a ground-breaking way of providing an additional touch point for brands to reach their customers and differentiate the experience they provide,” said Steve Blyth, managing director of Engage. “The experience itself could expand sales, boost revenues and brand advocacy by encouraging customers to buy more.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 10, 2014, on page 4.




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