Body Scanner May Improve Online Shopping

A new body scanning device has online retailers hopeful that this will be a profitable holiday season. Experts estimate that from 30-60% of all online apparel purchases are returned because they do not fit - and many shoppers don't even bother trying to order clothes online.

(Body Scanner builds up detailed image of body measurements)

The new scanner is being developed by the London College of Fashion, video imaging researchers at the University of Surrey and the company Bodymetrics.

The company already has in-store scanners that use the motion sensors from Microsoft's Kinect gaming device in Bloomingdale's in the US, Selfridges and New Look in Britain, and Karstadt in Germany.

Some firms, including Berlin-based Upcloud, are already offering home scanners that use a webcam, but the British developers say their system is able to measure in unprecedented detail.

With the new system, a shopper inputs his or her height as a reference and can then take a single full-length picture with a webcam or smartphone from which all their other measurements are calculated. It uses the measurements combined with a person's overall proportions to build a 3D image.

Combining this with sizing information from retailers, the system would also overcome the problem of variable sizing, which can mean a shopper is a "medium" in one store but a "large" in another.

The technology builds on previous work by the University of Surrey that was used to create animated characters in games such as The Sims.

Science fiction authors (and tailors, I'm guessing) have been wishing for a better way to measure the human body for clothing for a long time. In his 1899 story When the Sleeper Wakes, H.G. Wells tried to imagine a solution to this problem:

...the tailor pulled out a number of slotted arms terminating in little discs, pulling them out until the discs were flat against the body of Graham, one at each shoulder blade, one at the elbows, one at the neck and so forth, so that at last there were, perhaps, two score of them upon his body and limbs...

The tailor set moving a mechanism that initiated a faint-sounding rhythmic movement of parts in the machine, and in another moment he was knocking up the levers and Graham was released.
(Read more about Wells' Automated Surface Measurement)

I was also fascinated by the reference to The Sims, a product that was at least partly inspired by the kingdom in a box from the work of sf great Stanislaw Lem.

Via Sydney Morning Herald

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