Fashion is a highly tangible art. In some ways, it hasn’t changed much since past centuries when it was available only to a narrow segment of society. Fashion trends still change regularly and clothes are made of textiles and leather just like back in the day. However, fashion today is converging with digital technologies. Forward-thinking brands and retailers are beginning to explore these possibilities, including AR.
To the general public, AR fashion may seem impractical and created only for fun, because they put it in the same category as social AR lenses. And to some fashion or tech experts, AR fashion doesn’t meet their standards because their opinions were influenced by early attempts to make virtual clothes.
However, the truth is that today’s AR fashion is quickly evolving rapidly. High-quality AR try-on experiences are being developed for brands and retailers, allowing them to realize tangible business outcomes. How is that playing out today? Let’s explore a few examples.
1. Purchasing real items online
The most practical way to use AR try-on is to make it a part of the purchasing process in e-commerce. In this case, the aim is to help consumers make firm and informed choices about apparel so that they could choose the fit, size, and look which are right for them online without visiting brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, 79 percent of consumers need to try on clothes before buying them.
Beyond utility for shoppers, this helps fashion brands’ business objectives. AR Insider reports that virtual try-ons boost conversions and other sales metrics. They also decrease return rates, due to a more informed purchase that’s less likely to result in ill-fitting fashion items. Reducing returns also resonates with brands and retailers, as product returns are collectively a $500 billion per year headache.
2. Purchasing real items offline
Since the pandemic, retailers have been challenged to attract consumers back to offline stores. AR mirrors can be installed inside or outside of traditional stores to attract more customers to the stores, or to sell clothes. Ultimately, increasing the number of sales.
Brands and retailers can also avoid losing revenue when clothes are out of stock, leaving empty shelves. AR lets customers try on 3D models of physical items and preorder them.
3. Purchasing digital-only items
There are already signature fashion items existing only in the digital space, such as player skins in Fortnite. This digital-only fashion also continues to expand as shared online spaces such as Roblox continue to grow in both user engagement and brand participation. This phenomenon could represent new distribution channels and points of consumer engagement for fashion brands. And it gives users new ways to express themselves in online and gaming environments.
4. Fashion design & prototyping
Digital fashion allows influencers and content creators (or any social media users) to try on whatever clothes they want without the necessity to arrange logistics of real items which helps create content that can start and support discussions around recent fashion trends, designers, and other fashion-related topics in an easy and, again, sustainable way.
There’s nothing wrong with having fun with clothes. Especially when you can do it in a sustainable way ― without purchasing items that are going to be worn once and thrown away the next day. Take Halloween costumes for example ― you can try on a digital one and share pictures or videos on social media. Besides fun and viral appeal, it’s also environmentally safe as 83 percent of Halloween costumes are made of non-recyclable oil-based plastics.
Why AR Try-on Has to Be High Quality
Clothing AR try-on is a technologically complex process because there are too many variables ― physical and visual properties of materials, diverse body shapes, and various cuttings. Also, it’s important to make digital apparel behave in the same way as the real one during movement for real-time try-on.
All these things working together should produce a highly realistic feel to serve the main purposes of implementing virtual fitting and motivating consumers to buy clothes. Besides, there are luxury brands whose main selling strategy is through elevated customer experience and high quality is the only type of quality acceptable in these circumstances. It’s extremely important to impress shoppers in a good way.
In addition, since one of the applications of AR try-on is to share videos on social media, it’s necessary to meet the standards of platforms like Instagram and TikTok. If the AR try-on is not perfect, people won’t share it. Today’s consumers are used to high-quality visuals and HD screens and immediately see when a photo or a video isn’t suitable for posting.
Technologies Behind High-Quality AR Try-on
As stated above, AR try-on is a complex process on its backend. It consists of several stages.
First, we need computer vision to identify the pose of a person in the 3D world as well as the user’s body shape. This is a challenging, ambiguous, and actively researched task. It requires high-quality training data for our models, and we perform a lot of experiments with the neural network architecture.
Second, we need a real-time multi-class segmentation to make the experience more immersive. For example, hand segmentation improves the rendering of digital clothing in close proximity to hands.
Finally, we need cloth simulation to make digital clothes look realistic. It’s a very computationally-intensive problem for real-time applications. Especially, if we consider self-collisions.
To summarize, creating a high-quality AR try-on experience requires:
1. 3D body tracking to estimate the user’s pose and body shape
2. Real-time multi-class segmentation and in-painting to improve the immersive experience
3. Cloth simulation to make the clothes behave naturally
4. Rendering engines for digital clothing;
5. 3D assets libraries to help designers create realistic and futuristic clothes
One result of these quality standards is that the fashion industry will fuel AR’s evolution. The sector’s advanced needs will push the technology’s boundaries. The market already requires AR try-ons to equal offline experiences.
In fact, the global market for virtual fitting rooms is projected to grow from $2.97 billion in 2020 to $12.97 billion in 2028. As that revenue opportunity escalates, so will competitive pressure among AR try-on providers. This will motivate and accelerate AR to continue evolving to meet the needs of this high-value vertical.
George Yashin, co-founder of ZERO10