A mixed reality experience hit London Fashion Week once again this season, this time with a level of interaction thrown in. The Fashion Innovation Agency teamed up with designer Sabinna and virtual fitting room app Pictofit, to create a holographic version of her new collection, shown using Microsoft Hololens.
The line was shot on a model using a rig of 64 high-resolution DSLR cameras and calibrated light sources. The result not only lets users explore the garments in detail by walking up to, and around, the holograms wearing the headset, but also switch garments using simple hand movements. The top and bottom of each of the looks can be changed in turn, mixed and matched to allow the viewer to play stylist with the line.
Mixed reality is a step on from augmented reality (as this is often otherwise called) for the fact it appears as though “in” the real world, rather than just on top of it, and as it improves, is all about the interaction you can have with it.
Stefan Hauswiesner, CEO of Pictofit, who created the app for the experience, said: “[Mixed] reality has the power to change how we interact with fashion. From the outfit decision in the morning to buying clothes online, we want to see how we are going to look. We want to be inspired, try different combinations and ask our friends what they think. It’s a social experience and a huge opportunity for [it] to become something we use every day.”
Pictofit is otherwise a tool that allows users to virtually try on outfits (in 2D form) using an avatar that matches their own body shape and size. In this instance the fashion week collection is shown on one specific model, but it’s not too much of a leap to imagine the same experience on a likeness of your hologram self. Rather than just seeing and interacting with the line, that would swiftly turn the initiative into a commercial play.
Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, said: “Introducing interactivity into mixed reality is a new step for the fashion industry and points towards next-generation experiences for consumers and designers. Immersive, transformative, the potential impact on the industry for this technology is huge.”
The Fashion Innovation Agency previously hosted the Martine Jarlgaard London show at London Fashion Week in September 2016. It similarly saw Hololens used to show a mixed reality version of the collection, albeit a non-interactive one. The aim was to reimagine the catwalk show; challenging what it consists of by removing the barrier between the physical location and the audience.
The shift for this season shows how fast the technology is progressing, Drinkwater explained. What comes next is a greater number of cameras so as to remove the still very computer-generated feel of the holograms, and longer-term, more opportunity for creativity, he explained.
Technology initiatives in the fashion and beauty industry are too often for the sake of it, rather than built around problems that needs to be solved, said Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of creative agency Holition on a panel about augmented reality (AR) at #FashMash L!VE this week.
He called on the industry to consider its use of AR as well as virtual reality (VR) as solutions, not just a means of PR. By doing so the tech will be much “stickier”, he said, meaning people will keep coming back to it.
“We were very struck by how difficult it is for girls and women to explore new looks without actually walking into a shop and trying on make-up. If you do that using AR, then you can experience [them] very easily,” he explained.
Elodie Lévy, global digital marketing director at Coty Inc, which owns the Rimmel brand, said the goal behind using the tech really had to be about servicing consumers. Before even deciding what that tech would be therefore, they had to understand what the consumer wanted and needed. “It was really important for us to be grounded in consumer insights to make sure that this app would have utility, otherwise we’d have been pretty sure people would’ve downloaded it and dropped it,” she said.
One of the particular insights observed surrounded the shift in the consumer journey for buying make-up today. “What we had before is glossy advertising in a magazine, where the model was wearing the look and this was aspirational enough to go to the store to buy the same look. Over the past few years we’ve seen a drastic change in the consumer’s habits, where the sources of info have completely changed. Now it’s all Instagram looks, Pinterest, YouTube… and consumers record or screengrab them on their phones, then they go to the shop and they try to guess.”
To solve that issue, as well as help them see what make-up suits them as an individual, AR proved the most beneficial technology to use, she explained. Today, 60% of consumers return to the app, rather than the industry average of 20%.
In spite of this, Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, urged the audience to consider the fact that there also needs to be experimentation in the industry in order to help move it forward. “I don’t believe we have to always justify the use of technology as if we always have to solve a problem. I think if you look for a problem to solve, you end up with something that is almost predictable. There are times when experimentation just needs to happen; we need to put technologies through trial and put them into market,” he commented.
Within a university context, compared to say a corporation like Coty, he is of course afforded more in the way of opportunity to experiment, to test and see what certain technologies can do for the industry. But without that, we wouldn’t be able to get them ready for mass consumer adoption, he urged.
That was achieved by the whole collection being scanned using DoubleMe’s Holo Portal to turn it into a volumetric 3D mesh. Unlike with virtual reality, which isolates you from the environment you are in and instead transports you to another when you have the headset on, this technology superimposes the holograms on top of your natural surrounds. In other words, you can still see the room and the people around you, meaning the collection could be explored by walking around it and up close to it as if it really was in front of you.
“This is early stage technology, so when you put it on I think you can see the limitations of Hololens, but to actually have a full scale hologram in front of you is quite exciting. To watch people’s reactions to it, is really exciting. When you have no point of reference and you see something coming alive in front of you, the application of that at fashion week for one, but also you can imagine in a retail environment, is also really exciting,” he explained. “Ultimately for consumers, we’re beginning to explore where this technology could allow us to create a new couture. Would consumers be able to walk into a space and begin to collaborate with designers on creating the product together, in real time?”
In all circumstances, the speakers agreed that the quality of the technology and the user experience was key, no matter the stage it’s at.
“Quality is absolutely everything,” Chippindale said, “Brands are not going to be interested in ‘that’s where the tech is, and that’s all you’re going to get’, they want it absolutely as photo-realistic as possible. If you can get that; get people believing that the make-up they’re trying on they’re actually putting on, the shoes that they’re wearing are real, then I think there’s a really interesting possibility to blur that digital and physical world.”
The biggest issue at the moment, he said, is that the hardware just needs to get better. While there are various headsets being developed, and others like Magic Leap, rumoured to be able to start moving all of this forward, the majority of experiences are still held through the 2.5 inches of our mobile phone screens.
“We need some major technological hardware breakthrough to liberate the power that AR can have in making our lives better. It’s not around the corner yet, but if we can unleash AR from our phones, that’s when it becomes interesting,” Chippindale added.
Additional reporting by Bia Bezamat. Thank you also to Huckletree for hosting the evening, to Nuva for the flavoured water refreshments, and the tech companies who came in and showcased their work, including Holition, DoubleMe and Exzeb.
The see-now, buy-now fashion week circus continues, wrapping up in New York and onto London. All eyes on the Burberry show as that takes place this evening, but before that a round-up of all the other bits you might have missed including J. Mendel’s Instagram Stories show, Hood by Air’s collaboration with PornHub and the role virtual and mixed reality are playing this season.
Also hitting the headlines has been everything from the first Bread & Butter by Zalando attracting 20,000 consumers, and M&S sharing detail on how data and technology can drive innovation and growth. Don’t forget to check out our full list of upcoming events at the bottom too…
For guests who walk into the Martine Jarlgaard London show during London Fashion Week (LFW) this weekend, they won’t be met by a typical runway setup, but rather an empty space.
Or that’s how it will look to anyone peering in. Five individuals at a time will otherwise be wearing Hololens, Microsoft’s mixed reality headsets, to see the full spring/summer 2017 collection coming to life in the form of holograms in front of them.
This first expression of mixed reality during fashion week is an aim to reimagine the catwalk show; challenging what it consists of by removing the barrier between the physical location and the audience.
Unlike with virtual reality, which isolates you from the environment you are in and instead transports you to another when you have the headset on, this technology superimposes the holograms on top of your natural surrounds. In other words, you can still see the room and the people around you, enabling you to move about freely and explore the collection from all angles while it appears solid, real and lifelike before your eyes.
The project is the result of a partnership between Jarlgaard, the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion and Hololens developers and 3D capturing company, DoubleMe. Head over to Forbes to find out more about it, hear directly from Jarlgaard on what she’s aiming to achieve, and the big impact mixed reality is likely to have on the fashion industry in the future.