These days, it’s not just Snow White’s stepmother who has a mirror that talks back.
Thanks to augmented reality, Internet of Things, and data analytics technologies, more of us might be confronted with so-called “smart mirrors” the next time we try on clothes or accessories in a store. While mirrors are typically static pieces of glass, they are now being converted into high-tech portals that can make suggestions to complete an outfit, transport the reflected image into a beach scene or cityscape, and save a shopper’s personal makeup tutorials for future reference.
“This is a really interesting moment in a land grab for the virtual space in retail,” says Jenni Samuels, vice president for partnerships and marketing at Oak Labs, which makes smart mirror technology.
San Francisco-based Oak Labs makes smart mirrors for fitting rooms, with a display that can read RFID tags on clothes and show images of the items on the screen. By touching the mirror, users can request different colors and sizes for an item from store assistants, request stylist recommendations from the device itself, and even complete purchases via the screen. Shoppers can also adjust the lighting—options include “dusk” and “club”— choose a language with which to communicate with the device, and text a video of the entire session to a smartphone.
Founded by former eBay executives in 2015, Oak Labs’ mission is to merge physical retailing with e-commerce, Samuels says. While brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping share some characteristics—walking into a store is similar to calling up a landing page—the physical fitting room has been left behind, she adds. “The fitting room, which can be compared to the shopping cart, is completely devoid of data collection,” Samuels says. “We want to bring that same online optimization into the physical world.”
Making the fitting room experience as productive as possible is key because shoppers who go in there are nearly seven times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t, according to research by Alert Tech.
Not surprisingly, even e-commerce juggernaut Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is looking to deploy smart-mirror technology. In January, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved a “blended reality systems and methods” patent Amazon had filed for three years ago. Amazon’s patent states that the “blended reality system can be used in retail outlets in dressing rooms or other areas where users try on clothes prior to purchasing them,” according to Patently Apple.
The patent also states that user input can be received through voice commands, and this is where Echo Look, Amazon’s hands-free digital stylist and camera, might come into play. The mirror technologies could be paired with those Amazon acquired in October when it bought Body Labs, a New York startup that creates 3D body models to support B2B software applications.