Among the more frequent semi-serious critiques of trying on an outfit in a store is that the dressing room mirrors are somehow out to get you. The combination of questionable lighting, odd angles and slightly off perception often leave shoppers wondering, when they get home, how it is possible that the dress they tried on looked so very different in the store.
Some of that is psychological, but not all. Trying on clothes in the store can really be an experience of fashion out of context — a problem that MIT graduate Salvador Nissi Vilcovsky decided to formally take on in 2013 when he and MemoMi Co-Founder Ofer Saban launched a product that had heretofore never been seen in the market: a smart mirror.
Vilcovsky, who is currently CEO of the smart mirror firm MemoMi, said although the product was formally started in 2013, it was dreamed up long, long before then. Vilcovsky had a strong idea of what he wanted to do with a digital mirror in terms of enhancing visualization and functionality for shoppers, but building the technological mechanism to deliver the experience he visualized wasn’t quite possible initially.
“When I started with this idea, it was too early to create it because of limitations with the image processing power, the screens, and the cameras. So I just began with a portfolio of maybe 26 to 30 patents,” Vilcovsky told HiveLife. “After a few years, everything just came together. The GPUs (graphics processing units) became much stronger and the screens were more available. It was just time to do it.”
What “just doing it” entails is a digital mirror where the glass is replaced by an LCD screen, computer and HD camera that essentially snaps HD photos and videos of a customer try-on experience that can be shared (if the user so desires). The mirror also allows the user to make changes to the image they see — vary the lighting, change the color of the outfit to another available shade or even add on hypothetical accessories to complete the look without having to actually put on every discrete element.
The technology is designed to enhance the customer experience, obviously, but also to drive sales and bigger basket conversions on the theory that the easier it is to experiment with different looks, the more likely the customer is to be driven to multiple purchases. It is a theory that a lot of very notable names in retail have very publicly embraced including Neiman Marcus, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent, Sephora and LVMH, among others.
And yet, according to Vilcovsky, the goal is to make that list of retailers even longer. Because though the MemoMi mirror got its start in high-end apparel retail, at base the tool itself was designed to be highly adaptable to the needs of the retail establishment it finds itself embedded in.
The power of the hardware is unlocked by the power of the MemoMi software, he said, and its algorithms are trained to a wide degree of functionalities. Fashion and accessories are elements, but so are skin care, hair care, eyewear and cosmetics, he said.
“We’re like a chameleon. We can create a new use case in a few weeks. We’re working with almost every makeup superbrand and we’re expanding all the time,” he said.
The challenge for retailers working with products is in the merchandise itself, and breaking it out of the 2D imagines they’ve created in the past in order to providing MemoMi 3D with images its technology can work with digitally to manipulate around the consumer images it captures.
But, he notes, in the last 12 months business has been booming as more and more retailers in the U.S. and around the world have been looking for ways to add augmented reality (AR) retail tech into their physical stores — and do so in a way that feels natural and organic as opposed to overly gimmicky. The challenge for MemoMi, according to its CEO, is keep up with current demand, and create demand in the retail spaces that don’t yet know they need smart mirrors.
“We’re trying to create a platform that can suit any use case for retail,” he said.