Exact proportions of the feet are measured using the Volumental browser-based application. (Photo: David Callahan)

A fitting technology for the apparel industry

Published Dec 12, 2014

The tale of Cinderella might have had a very different final act if the prince had access to Volumental’s 3-D measuring technology. The browser-based app will soon be introduced at major shoe dealers so that customers can be sure the shoe fits … perfectly.

Clothing can be one of the toughest gifts to buy for the holidays. It’s nearly impossible to tell whether an item will actually fit. But a new web-based solution developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology will eliminate the guess work, and could inject new life into the online apparel business.

Researchers at Volumental, a start-up based at Stockholm Innovation (STING), are teaming up with processing giant Intel to bring to market an app that uses depth imaging to get 3D measurements of your body. The exact proportions can be used to either customize clothing or to identfiy those items in stock that fit best.

“We can measure not just the size but all sorts of precise dimensions,” says Alper Aydemir, a researcher who specializes in 3D perception for mapping and manipulation. “So when you go to a site like Amazon next year – or in the next few years – you’ll be able to sort items by their fit to you.”

The solution uses a device’s built-in depth camera, which are becoming standard across the electronics industry. Measurements are then calculated with Volumental’s browser-based software, which was developed by Aydemir and fellow KTH researchers Rasmus Göransson and Miroslav Kobetski.

With an ordinary laptop, Aydemir demonstrates how the technology measures not only your shoe size, but the exact shape of the foot. A 3D printer, he says, could actually create a perfectly-formed shoe, if the necessary materials or such customizations were cost-effective.

“You would have to combine different kinds of flexible materials for shoes, but the price point is not there yet,” he explains. “But before we get there, there is that middle point where shoes are made for people who share your measurements and you can select them more accurately.”

The company is working with major shoe manufacturers with the aim of introducing the service in brick and mortar retail shoe dealers in Q1 2015. “We’ve seen strong pull with children shoes,” he says. “It’s hard for parents to keep track of their children, because they grow constantly and there is no way of knowing whether the shoe is comfortable.”

“If only there was some magic thing that just works, then it’s just a matter of the color, or whether it has Spiderman on it.”

The technology will be widely available online sometime in the near term, he says. For online dealers, who now offer incentives for customers to try and return merchandise that doesn’t fit, Volumental is expected to be a big cost cutter. And it could even boost business.

Anna Malkan, head of communications for Volumental, points out that according to the company’s research, size is the leading factor for returns on online apparel purchases.

“It’s not ideal. You’d rather not worry about if it will fit you,” Aydemir says. “You would rather know it will fit right off the bat. So, we take that friction out of the equation right away.”

Anna Malkan tells us her Christmas wish:

"A functioning Swedish government. And a budget."

David Callahan

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Last changed: Dec 12, 2014