I’d like to take an informal survey: how many of you have embarked on a clothes shopping mission full of enthusiasm, cheeriness and high expectations, only to return empty-handed, fuming, and wanting nothing more than a glass (or several) of wine, vowing to never leave the house again? I have, multiple times; in fact, I hate clothes shopping as a rule. It’s not like we lack options; if anything, there’s way too much to choose from in the vast US retail market. It’s finding a good fit that’s the problem.
Women’s sizes in particular seem to be completely arbitrary – a woman can be a size 6 in one store and a size 16 in another. Even without that baffling disparity, it’s hard to find a perfect fit because body sizes and proportions just aren’t uniform. (One of my issues, at 5’2″, is finding pants that aren’t too long, even when they fit perfectly otherwise.) It’s an annoyance at best, but for some, shopping can seriously exacerbate body image issues.
Body Labs did, in fact, take a survey, and it’s much more comprehensive than “how many people find clothes shopping miserable?” Their recent Apparel & Footwear Retail Survey found that a majority of people struggle with finding clothes that fit well, and that nearly a quarter of all clothing purchases end up getting returned. For the first time, though, the technology exists to ensure perfectly-fitting clothes without constant visits to the tailor – and that’s what Body Labs’ mission is.
While full-body 3D scanners are becoming more common, the technology is still limited; a 3D printed Shapie might be fun, but it’s not going to do much in terms of helping you design custom-fit apparel. On their website, Body Labs discusses several of the limitations of typical body scanners:
- Incomplete scans caused by the natural blocking of certain areas of the body, like the underarms or between the legs
- “Noise” produced by scanners that makes it difficult to obtain precise measurements
- Static scans that capture the body in one position don’t take movement or different poses into account. (How many times have you tried on a pair of pants and thought they fit perfectly until you bent over?)
Body Labs’ patented body modeling technology takes these issues into account and circumvents them through sophisticated algorithms that generate “digital avatars” which can replicate the natural movements of the human body. The avatars are created by combining customer scan data with pre-existing mesh body templates that adjust to match individual scan data while compensating for missing areas.
“By ensuring that each body model is created from the same original template mesh, we can guarantee that any mesh vertex or point stays in the same relative location on every body model,” says Body Labs. “This equips you to repose, add lifelike animations, and conduct deep analytics across the complete range of human shape, pose and motion.”
This is an incredibly valuable tool for clothing retailers, who can use this data to recommend sizes to their customers, improve their sizing systems by averaging parts of each dataset, or create custom fit clothing – even without meeting their customers in person. In fact, online retailers and shoppers may benefit the most from Body Labs’ technology; it’s bad enough trying to find the right fit when going into a physical store, but it becomes a real guessing game when shopping for clothing online.
In the Apparel & Footwear Retail Survey, which can be requested for free here, Body Labs discusses the “Ghost Economy,” a term coined by IHL Group to describe the “invisible” financial losses that result from returns, overstocks and out-of-stocks. Most retailers take these losses as an inevitable part of business, but Body Labs argues that this doesn’t have to be so. Not only can 3D technology make clothing and shoe shopping less painful for customers, but it can dramatically improve a company’s bottom line.
It’s a lot of information to take in, so 3DPrint.com and Body Labs are hosting a webcast entitled How to Use 3D Body Imaging to Innovate In the Apparel or Footwear Industry on Thursday, June 23 from 2:30 to 3:15 PM EDT. Jon Cilley, Chief Evangelist and Director of Marketing for Body Labs, will discuss the company’s research and the potential for 3D technology to change the clothing and footwear industries. Registration is free, so sign up now to find out more about the light at the end of the shopping-woes tunnel. Are you interested in watching? Let us know, and discuss further over in the Body Labs 3D Imaging forum over at 3DPB.com.