Emerging Media Field Test: VR Dressing Rooms–Hot or Not?

Introduction:

A Virtual Reality dressing room is a concept that came to mind to solve some of the challenges I’ve faced as a frequent online shopper.  In a digital space, an exact 3D rendering of any individual could be created and 3D models of apparel items that are sold online would be available to dress each individuals’ avatar—revealing common fit issues like length, color and accurate sizing.  I knew this idea would be a challenge from the start, as it would involve many moving parts that would need to work together seamlessly in order to be effective, but through my own experience and research I’d identified a problem in the online shopping industry that I wanted to explore as a part of my final project field test.

Hypothesis:

Creating personalized 3D avatars for people and products offered through online apparel retail stores will significantly decrease the amount of returns to retailers.  The creation and use of 3D avatars will become a more universal and commercial technology used globally for apparel ecommerce.

A Real World Problem and a Digital Solution:

Although my personal dissatisfaction with online shopping was the initial catalyst for this field test, the issue is somewhat of an epidemic; Research shows that there is a disproportionate rate of return for online products as compared to items purchased at a traditional brick and mortar store.  At least 30% of all products ordered online are returned compared to only 8.89% of products sold in-store (Saleh,K.)

infograph

Even further, evidence from a 2016 study showed that 56% of all participants who had purchased any type of clothing online, within the last six months, had returned at least one item (Clancy, O. 2016).  Thinking back on the various emerging media platforms and lessons I’ve learned in MNO 613, this real problem that exists could possibly be solved using a combination of new technologies that could personalize and improve the search for apparel items online.

Technologies:

Photogrammetry, this technology measures the distance between objects, creating images that have depth and accurate composition.  Photogrammetry is currently being used to recreate many types of objects that people want to explore more closely, collect specific information on detailed areas that may be inside or underneath the object and can get a 360 view of the object.  This technology has been great for archived pieces in museums and could certainly be useful in assessing apparel items online that we all want a closer look at.  Using photogrammetry my plan was to capture a three-dimensional image of one test subject as well as a small assortment of sizes of an apparel item offered online in order to assess fit and prove my hypothesis.  I used the iPhone app Trnio [turn-knee-o] to scan and capture my 3D images and turn them into digital avatars and renderings.

I would also rely on a virtual environment where my 3D images could live and be “layered” virtually in what I was referring to as a Virtual Reality dressing room. Sketchfab, is the platform that I chose upload and manipulate my 3D images and make available for my test subjects use.

Focus Group and Target Audience:

I recruited a small focus group of 3 women and 3 men, with varying demo- and psychographics when it comes to online shopping.  The women, whom ranged in age from 16 to 58, each had a positive reaction to shopping and online shopping, while the men stated more neutral to negative opinions on shopping.  “I only shop for clothes when I need something specific” and “Online shopping is easier because I don’t have to try on clothes” were common answers from the men to my survey questions which included:

  1. Which do you prefer more online or in-store shopping?
  2. Do you like trying on clothes?
  3. How frequently do you online shop for clothes?
  4. How often do you return apparel purchases from online shopping because of a bad fit?
  5. Would you use a VR avatar of yourself for online shopping?
  6. Would you spend time making your own custom avatar?
  7. Would you pay for a customized avatar of yourself?
  8. Would you trust a digital dressing room to try on clothes more than reading product descriptions and measurements online?
  9. Do you believe you would have better results with fit using an avatar in a VR dressing room?
  10. If they could not return the item, they would use digital dressing room
  11. Do you think digital dressing rooms should be a service adopted by retailers?
  12. Would you pay extra to use a digital dressing room for more accurate online shopping?

More than half (55%) of my focus group answered that they would use and trust a virtual dressing room to “try on” clothes determine fit, and the majority of that group (36%) stated that they would still only rely on a virtual dressing room if the option to return was still available.  Once the data from my Focus Group was collected, I felt more intimated to start using the actual technologies, because I wasn’t sure how I would manipulate the 3D apparel items with my test subjects’ 3D avatar.

I selected one test subject from my focus group—my roommate who is a millennial male, to serve as my test subject that I would scan and have dress up in my VR dressing room.  My test subject had more familiarity with gaming and VR technology and was not a frequent online subject so I felt he had a good mix of positive and negative attributes for my field test. I used Trnio to create his 3D image, and it was at this point that I encountered my first set of challenges.  I had hoped to produce a full body, 3D image of my test subject but due to space limitations and differences in my height compared to his, I had to adjust my field test for the first time and only do an upper body scan.  This actually worked out fine, because I only intended to evaluate one apparel item so it turned out to be unnecessary to have both his upper and lower body. My test subject was also a great sport and agreed to go shirtless for the scan, I’m not sure how that would have worked out had I decided to evaluate pants in my field test!  The partial body 3D scan that I trimmed and imported into Sketchfab was a little strange, but for the most part it looked like my test subjects’ likeness so I was happy with the result.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 8.58.27 PM

Revised Hypothesis:

Thinking through my original hypothesis during our live class session and having a better understanding of all it required, I quickly realized I was a little in over my head.  Capturing the incremental changes in size for one apparel item and layering them onto my test subjects’ 3D avatar would prove to be a challenge that required a bit more experience and expertise with photogrammetry and virtual reality.  Thinking back to an earlier lesson on the Innovator’s dilemma and how photogrammetry is used in museums, I decided to scale back my overly ambitious original hypothesis for something that might be a little more practical and possibly more effective.

My revised hypothesis stated that a 3D rendering of an apparel items offered on the items’ product detail page, will help shoppers make more improved purchasing decisions and lower the rate of returns. This was a field test I felt more comfortable executing and thus began my exploration.

Field Test:

The product detail page of most items sold online are rather limited as exampled in the photos below.  Measurements are provided and on average, a front and back image is available for review.

Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 2.40.19 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-18 at 2.44.31 PM

By creating a 3D image of this item, my test subject could have a much more robust and interactive view of the product to better determine how likely he would be to like and keep this product if he were to buy it online.  I chose Target as my retailer because it seemed more likely that I would be able to find the same product online and in-store to create my 3D scan with Trnio.  I located an item that was on a mannequin, which was crucial to my field test, because a hanging item wouldn’t have provided the same level of detail or movement in 3D.  My scan of the item came out good, although the lighting and subsequently the color of the item didn’t translate in Trnio and I was unable to achieve the same quality of trimming that I did with my initial scan of my test subject’s torso.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 7.53.19 PM

Once my 3D image was uploaded, I asked my test subject to look at the product detail page of the item on Target’s website and then engage with the 3D model on Sketchfab to see if he would be more or less influenced to buy and retain this item. My test subject’s feedback of the 3D model quickly went from “This is cool” to “It’s hard to move the shirt around and see what I want to see in order to decide.”

I shared my 3D apparel item with my focus group and their feedback was enlightening.  They were all very impressed with adding a 3D model to the product detail page of an online item, but they did not feel as though a 3D model would be enough to ensure the item would fit and prevent them from returning it.  Every person in my focus group said they would view and explore a 3D product render but this would not be enough to influence them to buy if they did not have the option to return the product.

Conclusion:

The general consensus was that there is no substitution for trying on an item at home or in an actual dressing room.  I really believed that I was on to something with this idea, so working through my field test shed a lot of light on the mindset of shoppers, which turned out to be different from my expectations.  Although 3D models might not be enough to decrease the rate of returns and solve the problem online retailers face, it’s my conclusion that this growing industry should still consider incorporating 3D models in an effort to continue modernizing and provide shoppers with as many resources as possible.

Sources

  1. Clancy, O. (May 30, 2016). Most Online Clothes Shoppers Send Something Back. com/News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36395719
  2. Saleh, K. E-commerce Product Return Rate –Statistics and Trends. Invespcro.com/Blog Retrieved from https://www.invespcro.com/blog/ecommerce-product-return-rate-statistics/
  3. Test Subject 3D model in Sketchfab
  4. Product Detail 3D model Sketchfab

Augmented Reality Stars

Looking back on some of our earlier lessons and thinking about the future of emerging media technologies, I suspect that through a combination of augmented reality, 3D printing and even 360 cameras, TV watchers of the future will be able to step into their favorite shows, on demand, and become a part of select scenes.

The way we currently use augmented reality, a person can feel surrounded by alternate universes that are created digitally, but from what I’ve seen in my career working for a television network, the future could hold so much more opportunity for augmented reality and television.  Using 360 cameras to shoot scenes, 3D printing to capture objects within the scene and then an augmented reality device to recreate all of the surroundings and elements in a anyone’s personal space is the future of how AR will begin to work with the television industry.

Anyone with an AR device, watching a program that has been optimized for this type of technology will be able to step inside their favorite show and interact with objects as if they are a part of the program.

I predict that there will be many challenges and problems to solve in order to create this level of augmented reality– producers might also have to rely on some sort of sensors to adjust scenes based on a viewers actions, but in the future anything is possible! The television and entertainment industry has come a long way in terms of creating more opportunities for viewers to engage and letting viewers experience shows through AR devices would be the ultimate in emerging media capabilities.

Things Could Finally Be Looking Up At The Jersey Shore

Drone journalism stories should be both informative and visually compelling to make the most out of this emerging media technology. In the tristate area around NYC, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and its effects on the Jersey shore still make headlines and I believe this would be a strong story to cover using aerial footage.

Using drones to shoot video showing the damage that still remains and efforts to rebuild the area would be impactful as it would allow journalists to completely cover this expansive area.

droneshore

Viewers would also get a bird’s-eye view of the national relief efforts that are being made here. Drones could safely show the enormous amounts of sand that is being poured into areas like Toms River that was left severely damaged after Sandy. The sand will be used to widen the beaches and build protective dunes to help prevent something like this from happening again. In total, there will be enough sand to fill over five football stadiums and I can’t think of any reporter that should be tasked with covering that kind of space; this is exactly the kind of story that drones should be used to enhance.

Turning My Field Test Ideas into [Virtual] Reality

A big part of my field test is using photogrammetry to create 3D avatars and highly detailed fashion designs to scale.  While I believe that virtual dressings rooms could be a viable solution to the online shopping industry, I’m learning that designing this emerging technology is an ambitious project for someone who could barely import objects into a 3D landscape.

So far, I’ve managed to collect data in support of my hypothesis that there is a much higher rate of return from online purchases than in-store shopping—30% compared to 9% in 2015 (Invespcro).   I’ve also started developing a brief survey which I plan to distribute to my test subjects in this field test to determine their level of interest in utilizing the virtual dressing room technology and personal avatar that I plan to create—questions included are intended to measure whether or not an individual would invest in having a personal avatar created, how much time they might spend customizing their avatar and if they would trust results provided by their avatar when making online shopping decisions.

Sample Survey Questions:

  1. Would you spend time making your own custom avatar?
  2. Would you pay for a customized avatar of yourself?
  3. Would you use an avatar for online shopping?
  4. Would you trust an avatar dressing room?
  5. Would you expect retailers to begin offer this as a service?

All of the above steps in my field test seem to be the easy stuff—it’s actually using 3D landscapes and photogrammetry to recreate a representative likeness of individuals that I’m most nervous about as I continue on with my field test.  Through my research I’m learning that there are much more practical uses for VR than just gaming, but it’s certainly not easy.  Wish me luck!

3D Avatars for Online Shopping

Hypothesis: Creating personalized 3D avatars for people and products offered through online apparel retail stores will significantly decrease the amount of returns to retailers.  The creation and use of 3D avatars will become a more universal and commercial technology used globally.

 

avatar

Real Problem:

The uncertainty of online shopping and mass amount of returns to retail stores

Novel Solution: 3D Avatars created

Typical Personas:

Female: Shops a lot both in store and online for more options, but returns 50% of online purchases because of fit or not what was expected

Male: Hates shopping, but needs things.

Transformative Stories:

My cliché female persona uses her 3D avatar to try on clothes in a digital dressing room, all of the products are uploaded with accurate dimensions for a more realistic idea of fit when placed on your 3D avatar.

My cliché male persona doesn’t have to leave the house to try on clothes that he needs to update his wardrobe for a special event. He tries on

Retailers begin to adopt this technology and hire more 3D designers add accurate size runs of products to their site for digital dressing rooms.

How will this be tested/measured?

Will there be a decrease in returns from online purchases?

How many retailers will invest in offering 3D products to “try on”?

How many users will create their 3D avatars for online shopping?

Results:

Custom 3D avatars, with accurate dimensions of each user will become a common digital resource, universally integrated into our online shopping experiences.

Using sensors to create a story

For many adults, work seems to be the most stressful aspect of their lives. Whether the cause is not getting along with colleagues, heavy workloads or work that is life-changing and complex, they each have a similar effect on us.  Being more transparent about careers or companies that seem to cause the most stress could be valuable information for students deciding on a career field, recruitment strategies and health care industries to name a few. Using Single Lead Heart Rate Monitors, I would use information collected from various employees in range of industries to spot trends and make some generalizations about most stressful careers.  I think that a story like this would gain a lot of attention as well as have a high probability of remaining relevant for quite some time.

In a field test, a version of the Single Lead Heart Rate Monitor will be given to employees of all levels in Tech, Academia, Finance, Medical, Entertainment, Fashion and other fields. Sensor data will be collected to track the heart rate which will be linked to stress levels for Senior to administrative level employees.  My hypothesis is that attention will be drawn to stress levels of mid-level employees that often seem to bear the burden of executing the most tasks with limited resources, causing the most stress.

Heart Monitor.jpg

I hope that a story like this would encourage employers to reevaluate work environments and create more opportunities that young adults will be excited pursue.

Crashing of the Costa Concordia in VR

The conviction of a cruise ship captain that capsized in Italy made headlines again this week as Italian courts ruled that the captain was at fault for this accident. As sad as this story has been, I remember seeing footage of the ship going underwater in 2012 and wondering what it must have been like for the 4,200 passengers inside.

I think this would make a compelling Virtual Reality story because of the strong visuals and experiential content.

concordia-cruise-disasterpromo

Hypothesis: Offering a 360, VR tour of the Costa Concordia ship before and during its capsizing would give viewers the opportunity to become closer with the layout and better understand how frightening the experience of being overturned and sinking would have been for passengers.

Similarly, to the Feguson VR story, this VR experience would have strong, suggestive content that may not be appropriate for all audiences and would need to be labeled as such.  I believe that creating a VR story on this topic would have certainly affected the minds of some jurors in the captains court case, which may or may not be the first measure of success for this story.

Another measure to determine the success of this story would be to identify the areas explored by viewers of this story.  The article stated that the ship crashed during dinner when most passengers were in the dining area—I would like to know if VR viewers would like to experience the simulation there or from other areas of the ship like the captains’ chair or somewhere else.

Although this is a grave and scary story to recount, I believe it is one that has strong enough sensory content, making it ideal for VR.