No matter the size or cut, shoppers in Silicon Valley now have a high-tech way to find the perfect-fitting pair of jeans.
A futuristic body scanner based on Xbox Kinect gaming technology went into service on Wednesday at a Bloomingdales store in Palo Alto, providing fashion advice to anyone brave enough to step inside.
It takes less than 10 seconds for the Bodymetrics scanner to build up a 3D model of a customer's body. Sixteen of the gaming sensors are installed around the inside edge of the scanner, and customers just need to walk in, press a button on a touchscreen and hold still.
The result of the scan is displayed to the customer on an iPad as a 3D mannequin that slowly rotates on the screen. Alongside is an evaluation of the customer's body shape, determined by the scanner. [See a video of the scanner and iPad app in action on YouTube.]
"Best asset is your small waist so make sure you emphasize it at every opportunity," read one of the lines on screen after a model demonstrating the unit was scanned on Wednesday morning. "Avoid wearing low to mid rise jeans as they will sit low on your waist making your torso look disproportionately longer than the rest of your body."
The system determines about 200 measurements, and a second tab brings those up, but that's only a step toward getting a well-fitting pair of jeans. An on-screen catalog guides the customer to the right jeans for their body shape.
"The most exciting thing is the product catalog," said Joanne Hackett, director of business development for Bodymetrics, which is based in London. "You'll be able to see what jeans here at Bloomingdales fit you perfectly."
And when it's all done, the data can be transferred to a Bodymetrics iPhone app for the customer to take away.
The use of Xbox Kinect units is a first for Bodymetrics.
"We've been operating in Selfridges in London for quite a few years," said Suran Goonatilake, chairman and co-founder of Bodymetrics. "That was using a different technology, a laser-based technology, for body measurement. But the problem in using laser-based technology is, these are very expensive, so it wasn't possible to scale, it wasn't possible to expand to many stores overseas."
The Kinect, which was introduced in late 2010, carries a much lower price than the earlier laser systems, and Microsoft's developer-friendly SDK (software development kit) makes it easy to integrate in applications like Bodymetrics' scanner. Bodymetrics expects the lower price to allow its pods to spread to more locations.
"We're going to be expanding both in the United States as well as Europe in a fairly rapid pace over the next months and years, so I think you'll see these pods appearing in department stores and other retailers, but also you'll be able to get your body scanned from home, using your Kinect device that is plugged into your Xbox," Goonatilake said.
At the London department store where the earlier-generation scanner is in use, it accounts for 20 percent of all sales of jeans. It's dedicated to those garments because the wide array of styles and sizes makes jeans particularly difficult for consumers to buy, the company said.
The Bodymetrics scanner is installed at the Bloomingdales department store at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. It comes here after a pilot program at a Bloomingdales store in Los Angeles.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org