Fashion Tech Days: augmented reality interacts with fashion
Organised by fashion and textile association NordCréa, the third edition of Fashion Tech Days was held on 19th-20th October at the European Centre for Innovative Textiles (CETI) in Roubaix, France. This year, the event's keynote speech focused on augmented reality applied to the apparel sector, as Grégory Maubon, co-founder of the RA’Pro association and an expert on the subject, spoke about three ways of utilising the technology in question.
First of all, it is useful to distinguish between virtual reality and augmented reality, two terms which some erroneously think are synonymous. "Virtual reality plunges you into something that doesn't exist," said Grégory Maubon. "It's an immersive technology which lets you travel totally outside the world that surrounds you. On the contrary, with augmented reality there is no break with the external world, it is something which can be applied to a real object, or a person, allowing us to interact with products." For customers, it provides an additional level of perception, useful in the relationship with a brand and for in-store interaction, since it can, for example, highlight a bespoke service.
At the start of the year, the Nike flagship store on the Champs-Elysées in Paris introduced a camera-projector device through which different colours could be superimposed on a shoe model. The system is developed by French company SmartPixels. "Customers are directly involved, and feel like they are creating their own ideal product themselves," said Grégory Maubon. "This could also lead to lower store stocks, as orders are custom-made, and allows just-in-time business management."
Augmented reality is also central to a series of mobile apps. The most striking examples come from the world of beauty. Grégory Maubon mentioned the YouCam Makeup app: besides its amusement value, "it offers a real service to consumers, who are able to try on different kinds of make-up." The objective is also to minimise the trial phase in-store, which can be rather tedious. "Many brands use the app as a tool to showcase their products and to establish a relationship with users in real time," added Maubon. The parent company of YouCam Makeup, Perfect Corp., has recently raised $25 million in capital to further develop its many apps, which do not work with make-up alone, as they make it also possible to trial out hairstyles, earrings or eyeglasses.
Finally, Grégory Maubon was keen to mention the French start-up SweetFit, which devised a connected mirror that makes it possible to choose and test an outfit from a virtual catalogue. The technology has already been tested by retailers like Devred 1902, Etam and Promod. "Connected mirrors are able to inject energy into a store, transforming a retail venue into an experiential venue. They are something useful, though far from magical," quipped Maubon.
If fashion brands want to engage with augmented reality, they must abide by four basic principles: interactivity, amusement value, sociability and especially simplicity. "Every device must be conceived to offer a service to its users. Above all, the purchasing experience must not be made more complicated," concluded Maubon.
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