V3 headed down to John Lewis on Thursday to try out its new virtual dressing room technology.
The retailer is running a six-week pilot of two virtual dressing rooms in its flagship Oxford Street store. The technology has been developed by Cisco, and is a combination of mirror, cameras and scanning software, especially developed for this project.
The first step is to register your name and email on the Cisco Cius tablet provided, so that John Lewis can email you any photos and information about the clothes after your session.
Anyone familiar with Microsoft Kinect will find the StyleMe mirrors easy to use, as the user interface is very similar. When you first stand in front of the mirror, the cameras take a scan of your body dimensions and joints, which allows the technology to match the clothes to your shape.
Then you just place your hand over one of the on-screen icons to carry out actions, such as try on item or take photo, or sweep your arm across the screen to scroll. You can choose from 500-plus items of clothing, organised by brand, trend or item type.
During our demo, there were a few glitches. The tablet in one of the demo areas failed to register our details, so we had to decamp to the fitting room on the shop floor. This screen then froze, apparently as the software and cameras get confused when too many bodies are in its vicinity, another issue familiar for Kinect users.
Once the system was up and running, however, it was great fun to use, and there are some really useful features. We particularly liked the mix and match feature, which suggests matching items to go with the clothes you’re virtually wearing; and also the advanced technology that enables the clothes to move with you as you lift your arms up and down, for example.
At the end of a session, you are supposed to receive an email with the photos of you in your virtual outfits. However our photos never arrived so we’ve had to use some stock shots here provided by Cisco. We did get a glossy handout with the pictures, though, along with the information about each item and we received an email with links to the items we tried on, on the John Lewis website.
Some of the photos can also feature a QR code, so you can scan purchase the item directly from a mobile device.
John Lewis fashion adviser Letara Buckley said the mirrors had proved popular so far, with 20 to 30 customers a day using them since launch on 20 April, for an average of 30 minutes each. Twenty per cent of customers go on to buy an item, she added.
Cisco said the next steps would be to make any improvements based on customer feedback from the pilot, and then wait for John Lewis to decide whether the technology has core business benefits.
It’s definitely a more pleasant experience than trekking round the shop floor trying to find suitable items, but as Cisco said, this is supposed to be more about offering John Lewis customers a fun, digital shopping experience than replacing traditional dressing rooms.
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