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Rice University engineers revolutionize online shopping with Xbox 360 Kinect

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No more ordering a wrong size T-shirt, baggy dress or too short, shorts online.

Rice University engineering students Cecilia Zhang, Lam Yuk Wong, have created a “virtual fitting room” for online shoppers.

Their paper, “Virtual Fitting: Real-Time Garment Simulation,” will be presented at the 27th Annual Conference of Computer Animation and Social Agents to be held May 26-28, 2014 at the University of Houston.

In the U.S., Forrester Research shows that $248.7 billion online sales are expected in 2014. A compounded growth of 10 percent is forecast for the next five years. In Western Europe sales are expected to reach 14 billion Euros ($155.7 billion), a growth of 11 percent annually.

Apparel, computers and consumer electronics continue to be the top purchases; make up 40 percent of current online sales and won't change in the near future.

Shopping for clothes online is convenient - no crowded department stores, searching for your size on racks of clothes, annoying sales people, not to mention having to take off and put on your clothes in a dressing room and finally look at your naked body under glaring fluorescent lights.

The downside of online internet clothes shopping is "one-size truly does not fit all".

Lam Yuk Wong, a senior in electrical and computer engineering at Rice University says, “Nothing fits. They order clothes and they don’t fit. People get very unhappy.”

Wong and her design partner, Xuaner “Cecilia” Zhang, are Team White Mirror the created the “virtual fitting room” so that online clothing shoppers will purchase clothes with a perfect fit and a perfect look with every purchase.

Wong is from Hong Kong and Zhang from Beijing. Both order most of their clothing online. They got the idea for their design project from their own experience as consumers and from listening to the complaints of friends and relatives.

“They say, ‘The color is wrong’ or ‘I got the right size but it does not fit right.’ We want to make it like you’re in the store trying on the clothes,” Zhang said.

The creators used a Kinect, the motion-sensing input device developed by Microsoft for use with its Xbox 360 video game player. Zhang scans Wong and turns her image into, in effect, a virtual mannequin, preserving Wong’s dimensions, and even her skin and hair color.

“We put the clothes on the shopper’s 3-D body models and show how they look when they are dressed.

Existing virtual fitting rooms don’t use customized body models that look like the shoppers. It takes a long time to display the fully dressed models, and they don’t look realistic,” Wong said.

Their software is able to see realistic details, even wrinkles in the garments. They can rotate the model to see how the garment fits from all sides. So, Wong and Zhang have adapted the software to show dresses and shirts, and they are working on shorts.

The team received further validation when it won the $5,000 Willy Revolution Award at Rice’s annual Design Showcase April 17, 2014.

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