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Virtual mirror could kill in-store changing rooms

IFA: Prototype uses touchscreen-based flat panel

Imagine trying on the latest fashions without having to undo a single button. That’s the idea behind the virtual mirror developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications and on display at the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

The set up consists of a flat panel display with touchscreen, a camera mounted above it and lighting to evenly illuminate users. They stand in front of the display wearing a green T-shirt, the camera captures their image and then a software algorithm replaces the green with whatever style the users choose. That includes different colours, logos and textures.

The Fraunhofer Institute first used this technology in 2007 when they developed a different type of virtual mirror for the Adidas flagship store in Paris. Customers there designed their own shoes, stepped in front of the mirror and saw them superimposed on their feet. "We thought about doing it for clothes too, but of course tracking clothes and tracking garments is much more difficult than tracking rigid shoes," said Anna Hilsman, one of the researchers who developed the virtual mirror.

Unlike shoes, textiles have elastic qualities and their structures aren't always uniform, so that creates a challenge for the virutal mirror. The software algorithm creates a two-dimension model of the image that is used to predict any changes. The system also knows the directions in which the fabric is capable of streching or flowing.

While the technology has been used with T-shirts and shoes, its not limited to just that. "We thought about doing it with glasses because usually when you buy glasses you usually have to take off your own and then you can’t see yourself in the mirror," said Hilsman.

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