Online shopping can’t be beat in terms of convenience, but it can be tough to judge actual clothing sizes from a computer screen. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, up to one-third of online purchases are eventually returned by consumers because of a poor fit or lack of understanding of what the item will actually look like.
The Fits.me Virtual Fitting Room aims to solve that problem. The Estonian start-up has built a robotic mannequin that can alter its shape according to specific measurements provided by users.
According to Wired, roboticists at the University of Tartu in Estonia developed the mannequin with the help of Human Solutions, a German research firm specializing in body dimensions. They installed 50 actuators that can move in and out depending on the shape they are meant to form. The actuators were then covered in Pedilin, a material that mimics human skin and is used to create prosthetic legs.
Now, retailers like Hugo Boss, Superdry, Thomas Pink, and Ecko Unltd. have gotten involved. The process begins with a shipment of samples to the Fits.me studio in Tartu, Estonia, where staffers adjust the robot in thousands of different combinations of measurements in hip width, chest diameter, sleeve length, and waist size. The photos they take of each combination are then entered in a database so that theoretically, shoppers can see the items they’re considering on a model that’s just their size.
The program even provides tips about areas where the garment may be too short or too tight on a shopper. Here’s an example of what a man shopping online with Henri Lloyd might see when using the Virtual Fitting Room:
The hope is that having this information will help shoppers to pick out a garment that fits them just right.
But the technology in Fits.me could have even wider implications: According to Wired, the company is planning to sell the information they’ve collected on shoppers, which will help retailers to better target design and sales.
However, virtual shopping remains a competitive industry, with companies like Virtusize, True Fit, Metail, and Clothes Horse exploring similar technology. Fits.me also has Fit Advisor, a lower-end version of the service that simply compares a person’s measurements to clothing rather than providing the full virtual fit.
Still, Fits.me’s virtual mannequin seems a great deal less creepy than the computer-generated avatars that other companies are using, and you don’t have to provide an actual photo of yourself.
Check out how the Virtual Fitting Room mannequin moves.