Virtual-fitting technology may be the holy grail for online apparel retail, and there’s at least one giant in hot pursuit: Amazon. The e-commerce juggernaut has patented a high-tech mirror that overlays virtual garments on shoppers, so they can see how clothes will look on them.
The concept blends augmented reality and the physical world in what the tech industry is increasingly calling “mixed reality.” According to the patent, the mirror uses displays, cameras and projectors to scan the environment and create the image. In the reflection, the customer sees himself or herself wearing the virtual clothes against a generated backdrop.
When asked about the filing, Amazon declined to comment.
For now, consider it another mile marker in Amazon’s quest to become a fashion powerhouse. Last year, the company acquired Body Labs, a computer-vision technology firm capable of creating 3-D models of human forms and outfitting them with virtual clothes.
“This patent, combined with last year’s acquisition of Body Labs, is a clear indication that Amazon is trying to move from a commodity-only shopping experience to a more immersive experiential experience,” said Michael Levine, vice president of marketing at retail-tech consulting firm Photon. “By allowing the shopper to see themselves in their intended environment [through AR] wearing their chosen outfit…[it] could be a game changer for fashion and the type of experience high-end fashion designers crave.”
Amazon has been on a tear to connect the dots between its platform and its fashion aspirations. In addition to courting luxury brands and launching its own private lines, the company has debuted the try-before-you-buy Prime Wardrobe service and introduced the Echo Look video camera, which can capture full-frame images of the owner and offer styling advice. It also patented a shape-shifting mannequin last summer, and its research and development arm developed algorithms capable of turning Instagram trends into actual fashion designs.
If the company’s sales are driving its ambitions, then there’s plenty of fuel. According to One Click Retail, Amazon raked in 44 percent of e-commerce sales in the U.S. and 4 percent of all retail sales last year. “There’s zero risk Amazon stops growing,” Instinet analyst Simeon Siegel told WWD. He estimated that by 2020, Amazon’s apparel sales could reach $85 billion.