Augmented reality is about to get a little more real for retail.
The new Dressing Room by Gap will come to the Google Play store on Jan. 30. Made in collaboration with Google and Avametric, the app uses augmented reality to show mobile shoppers how styles might look on their body.
Shoppers using the app will be able to select a virtual mannequin from a range of sizes and pick looks for the mannequin to try on. To make a purchase, the shopper can then click through to the corresponding product page on Gap’s mobile web site.
When seen through the app, the mannequin looks like it is standing in the same room as the shopper, blending a view of the real world with digital enhancements, à la Pokemon Go.
The shopper can “walk around” the mannequin and add in an additional mannequin to compare two images. She can change the size of the style or the mannequin to see, for example, where a dress falls on the thighs or if boyfriend jeans look better in the next size up.
Gil Krakowsky, who is Gap’s vice president of global strategy and business development and worked on bringing the app to fruition, said part of his job is making shopping “effortless and confidence-inspiring.” His hope is that the app will replicate the emotional effects of the in-store try-on process.
Gap introduced the Dressing Room app at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas this month, and somewhat surprisingly for a brand of its size, Krakowsky said that the company is taking an iterative approach to developing it. This means that Gap will be careful to see how the customer responds to the experience before adding in features or making changes. This is reflective of the Silicon Valley, start-up-style mentality, which encourages developers to introduce products before they are perfect, updating along the way.
The company doesn’t have specific goals or timelines.
The app was created by Avametric, which builds software that creates 3-D images that show how garments fit on the body. Chief executive officer Ari Bloom previously worked at West Elm and Gap Inc., and said virtual fitting room technology could boost online conversion rates the way fitting rooms help stores turn browsers into buyers.
While the potential payoff for enabling mobile try-ons is big, helping customers with fit is part of a larger strategy at Gap that focuses on product, quality and fit.
In a blog post, Gap global president Jeff Kirwan said, “The fashion industry has not traditionally been geared toward helping people understand how clothes will actually fit. Gap is committed to winning customer trust by consistently presenting and delivering products that make customers look and feel great and we are using technology to get there.”
He said Gap has been working to create products that better match the way that customers are shaped instead of looking at “fit model” sizes, and that one of Gap’s priorities was improving technical knowledge about how fabric stretch, drape and feel impact the sensation of fit.
The Gap Dressing Room app will be available only on the Google Play store, and it can only be used by a small number of devices that are enabled with Google Tango. Tango is an AR platform that allows smartphones and tablets to detect their position in the world around them using a depth sensor and a 180-degree fish eye camera, said Sophie Miller, who works in business development for AR at Google, specializing in shopping. So far, the hardware needed is available in a Lenovo phone, with an Asus option to soon follow.
Miller said the technology that enables the app would become ubiquitous in the way that GPS-enabled smartphones are today. She added that while Google has been investing in both AR and virtual reality offerings for the worlds of fashion and retail, AR offers perhaps the most immediate applications.
Krakowsky said that technology gives shoppers “autonomy” in the shopping experience, and that there would be more to come. “It’s our responsibility to constantly explore new ways to make the shopping experience effortless and pursue solutions that will add value to the customer experience,” he said. “The Dressing Room by Gap pilot app is just one element of our longer-term strategic plan in this space.”