Wouldn't it be nice if we could shop for clothes without having to try them on? That vision could soon become a reality thanks to the "virtual mirror" presented by German researchers at an electronics show in Berlin.
The magic mirror could appeal to men who find shopping for clothes a chore
This mirror-like display enables shoppers to see themselves wearing different items of clothing without having to undo a single button, according to the Fraunhofer researchers at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.
There is more than a grain of truth in the old cliche that men hate shopping for clothes. They find dressing rooms a nuisance and prefer to go on wearing the same things that they have always worn.
So scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut (HHI), have developed a "magic mirror" that takes the stress out of trying on new clothes.
The virtual mirror concept was launched in an Adidas flagship store
All you have to do is to choose one shirt, and the virtual mirror will show how you would look wearing a range of different designs, without having to take off one to try on another.
"The principle is similar to the virtual shoe-fitting mirror that we developed last year for the Adidas flagship store in Paris," says Anna Hilsmann of the HHI.
"But it is somewhat more difficult to create a realistic impression of T-shirts, shirts or sweaters in a virtual mirror. These items of clothing develop folds that partially distort the image depending how the wearer moves about."
Textiles have elastic qualities, their structure is not always uniform, and there are innumerable details that give each material its special appeal. These characteristics represent a challenge for the virtual mirror.
Summing up the scientific work required, Anna Hilsmann explains: "To reproduce elastic deformations such as those in a woven or knitted fabric, we have to evaluate many different parameters and process them all simultaneously."
Visitors to the Berlin electronics show were able to see for themselves how easy it is to display different logos or graphics on the same T-shirt.
Technology not just for textiles
So what does a stress-free fitting room look like? The customer stands in front of a display that has a camera mounted above it. The camera registers the way their garment fits and flows and moves.The computer then "morphs" other styles of the same garment with the same folds and creases as the garment the person is actually wearing.
When the person moves and turns around, the image also moves and turns. The shadows and lighting effects seen in the virtual mirror are also identical to those on the real person.
"Shoes and clothes are just the first stage," remarks Hilsmann. "The virtual mirror could also be used to help customers select eyewear or jewellery."