Israeli 3D/augmented reality (AR) company Hexa is rolling out a new collaborative project with Microsoft and Snap Inc. (parent company of Snapchat) to create a platform for virtual try-on (VTO) experiences. The first application of the software involves merchandise for the LA Lakers, giving NBA fans the ability to visualize themselves in jerseys and other team apparel they’re considering before ordering.
Hexa is participant in Microsoft for Startups, allowing it access to the computer giant’s resources and technology. With this, it claims to use artificial intelligence (AI) to create and distribute 3D models and AR. Its site is filled with claims that 3D renderings, with the ability to provide 360 rotation and “unlimited virtual photoshoots” of digital copies of products, can boost sales, increase engagement, and cut costs. Without VTO, this would be like what Sketchfab has done for 3D models online. For VTO, however, the company is hoping to make an even greater impact by allowing people to try on Lakers merch through Snap Lens before sharing that content on social media.
“Hexa is on a mission to bring a variety of immersive, 3D commerce experiences to brands and retailers worldwide,” said Shish Shridhar, Global Retail Lead, Microsoft for Startups, Microsoft. “ We are pleased to support Hexa with Azure cloud infrastructure to deliver a best in class experience of 3D/AR and virtual try on solutions to our joint clients.”
It certainly wasn’t the most urgent consequence to the retail industry brought on by the pandemic, but it has, nevertheless, been quite pervasive, and highly transformative to the sectors it affects: dressing rooms almost universally shut down at some point in 2020, and were rather slow to return to use. Even aside from this, the ever-increasing prevalence of online purchases relative to traditional clothes shopping has yielded a situation where, according to the National Retail Federation, the value of returned products in the US alone totaled $428 billion in 2020 — over ten percent of total retail clothing sales.
One solution to this is something like what Amazon has started doing with its Prime “Try Before You Buy” service, where you can order clothes to try them on, at no cost, as long as you return them within a week. However, aside from leading to a situation where, if you like the article of clothing you purchase, you’re purchasing something that has already potentially been worn by many other people, this crude concept also comes attached with the same flaws as Amazon’s business philosophy in general, which is to waste resources and ask questions later.
The other solution, VTO, while perhaps not quite where it needs to be yet technologically to fully take off, has much greater potential for saving the resources wasted by unnecessary returns. Moreover, Hexa claims to be the real deal when it comes to delivering on the experience.
In a Hexa press release, the company’s CEO, Yehiel Atlas, said, “Current industry solutions miss the mark of online buyer experiences and expectations. At Hexa, we’re committed to equip brands with a 3D visualization platform that will drive customer satisfaction and confidence.” Shish Shridhar, Global Retail Lead at Microsoft for Startups — of which Hexa is a member — added, “Hexa is on a mission to bring a variety of immersive, 3D commerce experiences to brands and retailers worldwide. We are pleased to support Hexa with Azure cloud infrastructure to deliver a best-in-class experience of 3D/AR and virtual try on solutions to our joint clients.”
Although, of course, not explicitly a 3D printing technology, there are, nonetheless, a multitude of implications for the future of 3D printed clothing, which at present leaves a lot to be desired for customers. Currently, most 3D printed fashion is made of actual plastic, though there are a few newer endeavors that involve applying some form of polymer to fabric. In the case of Kornit Digital, this means “digital embroidery”, while for Voxel8, this translates to shoe uppers. Outside of 3D printing, we have companies like vPersonalize, Paint All Over Me, and RageOn!, where digital models of garments can be translated to sewing and cutting patterns for direct-to-garment printing or dye-sublimation. This opens up the possibility to producing individual garments on-demand tailored for a customer’s size, shape, and design preference.
VTO infrastructure, like what Hexa is developing and what Amazon might be working toward with its purchase of Body Labs, could eventually change that, especially so the more the tech is adopted and embraced by customers. The relationship between imaging data and the additive manufacturing (AM) process is inextricable; developments in one inevitably lead to developments in the other. With the development of Facebook Meta and Snap’s participation in this project, we can also imagine a virtual reality element at some point in the future.
Materialise created 3D models of the human anatomy based on sliced image data from 2D photos, which ultimately led to every other innovation the company was both directly and indirectly responsible for. It’s easy to envision similar things happening in the fashion industry, and I think it’s safe to say that in this industry perhaps more than any other aside from the food industry, more automation and less waste would be beneficial to everyone on the planet.
Feature image courtesy of USA Today.
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