Cher at the 1986 Oscars

Want to try on the seminal Bob Mackie outfit Cher wore to the 1986 Oscars? The Los Angeles Times is bringing it closer to reality.

In the run-up to the 2020 Oscars, the Times teamed with Ryot, an ar/vr focused video studio owned by Verizon Media, to offer an in-app experience for users to “try on” a few of the more iconic dresses from the Hollywood event over the last five decades. Along with Cher’s famous look, there is a rendering of Farrah Fawcett’s gold Stephen Burrows dress, Gwyneth Paltrow’s pink Ralph Lauren, Björk’s Marjan Pejoski swan dress and Billy Porter’s Christian Siriano tuxedo dress, all of which a user can superimpose onto themselves or a friend. 

It’s basically a selfie filter for some Oscars fashion moments. It will be available through the Times app and then a fuller 3-D experience within Yahoo News, which will include a brief voiceover from the Times offering some background of the looks. But more than fashion education, the Times just wants people to have a bit of fun and engage with something that’s easy to use on more than one platform.

“There are a lot of filters in social media right now, so the idea was to make it accessible,” Nani Walker, an immersive producer for the Times, said. “A lot of the time with ar and vr projects, the barrier seems to be accessibility, people don’t have the right phone or something like that.”

Marques Harper, the Times’ Fashion editor, added that the filter is something of an “evolution” of fashion coverage at the paper.

“Now, we can take the audience beyond a photo in a traditional story and allow them to experience the dresses in a new way,” Harper said. 

But really, the new Times offering is more of a precursor to what ar/vr technology will bring to media and fashion in the coming years and it’s something of a testing ground for Ryot, which is making a calculated push into the space with media partners.

“It’s a part of our broader xr production progress and the goal is to start distributing some of the ar,” Zeda Stone, head of Ryot said. “We’re big believers in the 3-D format in general and it’s starting to pervade things, like video did in the past.”

Even if there maybe isn’t a huge demand from readers for such an in-app experience from a news organization like the Times or Yahoo, media companies are investing more in tech-y, xr things in an effort to differentiate and try to get ahead of consumer trends, if at all possible. The Times partnered with Ryot back in November and the 3-D Oscars dress is the first fashion-focused experience either company has produced. From Ryot’s perspective, it’s a natural use for such technology.

“There are a lot of pain points we can solve,” Stone said. “One of the most common we hear about is virtual try-on and it’s not quite there yet, but in the future, you’ll be able to try on clothes and really see how they fit on your body.”

A “high-quality” version of try-on, be it for fashion, beauty or e-commerce generally, is still a few years out, Stone thinks. But even then, it’s unlikely it will be something every medium needs to utilize very often.

“At the end of the day, it’s another arrow in the quiver,” Stone said. “The mistake a lot of people make is trying to entirely supplant older ways with newer ones.”

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