Safety protections for workers aren’t just a critical matter for warehouses or sales floors. For Asos, that means safeguarding the people who bring their products to life on its product pages and images as well.
The fashion retailer revealed Thursday that, to protect its staff and models, it’s offering simulated views of people wearing its apparel online, courtesy of augmented reality.
It’s a logical progression for the company, which was already exploring AR in January, prior to the main thrust of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns. Asos was the first retailer in Europe to trial an AR tool called See My Fit, which showcases virtual product try-ons on models of different sizes and body types.
To be sure, the models aren’t actually wearing the clothes. Rather, the tool layers virtual garments over the images of the women.
The tech, which was developed in partnership with Israeli AR and artificial intelligence company Zeekit, aimed to show how products look on a range of models, so a consumer could more accurately visualize how apparel might look on someone with a similar body type.
Now its purpose extends beyond product marketing. According to an Asos statement: “This technology will simulate real-life model photography while Asos is choosing not to work with models in the Asos studios due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The effort involves digitally fitting six models in as many as 500 products a week, digitally mapping each item onto the model. The company is going for realism, taking into account the size, cut and fit of each item.
Asos will also employ more “flat shot” photos — such as on a hanger — to avoid the use of live models, during a time when production shoots just aren’t possible. However, Asos insiders and models have and will continue shooting product from their homes, the company said.
“This augmented reality tool will ensure Asos continues to have new items dropping each week and provide customers with realistic product images,” Asos added.
AR may not be entirely new for apparel, but accurately portraying fabric and fit is a challenge. That’s relegated its use more in other categories, such as furniture, eyewear, bags and cosmetics.
Now the need to crack the challenge for fashion may be heightened by the emergency, as a way to drive online sales amid widespread quarantines and stay-at-home orders.
In a broad sense, the scenario has lit a match on what may turn into an explosive period of innovation and frenzied tech adoption — either as a survival instinct or to prepare for the post-COVID-19 world.