USA: Seventeen.com opens “virtual dressing room”

Hearst’s Seventeen.com is partnering with JCPenney to lets its visitors try on back-to-school fashions via augmented reality.

The “virtual dressing room” is an app that superimposes apparel on a live Web cam view of the user. The JCPenney clothing is laid over a Web cam live image of the user and then links to direct e-commerce opportunities from JCPenney. The Flash-driven Web app requires no downloadable plug-in. It detects the user in the Web cam image. When a piece of clothing is selected from the catalog, the app superimposes it on the shopper so she can get a sense of its style and color on her.

As the demo video explains (see below) the image includes virtual buttons for navigating the catalog with hand movements. The user can also share the looks with friends on Facebook or email.

Unlike other augmented reality schemes, this one doesn’t use any special markers on the Web cam image but employs object and motion detection to determine how and where to fit the clothing. The technology was developed by augmented reality company metaio.

Augmented reality has become a favorite technology of magazine publishers in the last year. Esquire, Popular Mechanics and other books have used the technique to add digital extras to their print product. The partnership with JCPenney, however, links Seventeen.com into an online shopping model that could offer hosting magazines a new way of generating incremental revenue and a new hook into readers’ everyday online habits.

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