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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 08:57 GMT
Virtual dummy to try on clothes
A 3D model tries on clothes for you
Forget the sweaty struggles with clothes
Sweaty battles with tight jeans in cramped fitting rooms could be consigned to history if new technology developed by Toshiba hits the shops.

It has teamed up with a Japanese software company to develop a 3D system which will create a virtual you, who can try on clothes and move as you do.

Video cameras snap the shopper, then clothes and accessories are selected and displayed immediately.

The system is still at an early stage, but it could in use by 2006.

It could be a revolutionary concept for men - and many women - who loathe the experience of shopping and trying on clothing.

Online reality

The process of turning the images of the shopper into photo-realistic avatar - or virtual representation - happens in real-time.

This means the system, which Toshiba is jointly working on with Osaka-based Digital Fashion, could cut down unnecessary time wasted wriggling in and out of garments, and prevent impatient finger-tapping of waiting friends and partners.

Women in a fitting room, (Image: Corbis)
Shop fitting rooms are not always the most comfortable places
There are already some similar simulators used in Japan and other countries, which can display how a new hairstyle or make-up technique might look. But this is a big step on from those systems.

"Today's systems display clothes on a virtual mannequin, or on a virtual mannequin that is combined with an image of the customer's face," Mitsuo Saito, chief research fellow at Toshiba, explained to BBC News Online.

"They are static. Make-up simulators already in use show only the front view, 2D information."

By producing a moving, flexible 3D representation, the effect is far more realistic.

Toshiba expects it to give a huge boost to online shopping too.

Instead of choosing clothes from photographs, with little idea of how they would actually look on you, the system could be adapted for home use allowing people to dress their virtual selves online.

Suits you

As well as the 3D effect, the developers said they are aiming to make the results look as real as possible. With fast-moving improvements in graphics technology, they hope this will be achieved.

"Think of the progress made by video games in recent years," Mr Saito said.

The Fast Show's tailors
Suits you, sir!: Virtual bespoke tailoring could be the future
"In football software, for example, players and their movement become more realistic with every generation of products. We want to achieve the ultimate: a virtual reality for trying clothes."

Toshiba thinks the system would be equally useful for people who would like bespoke tailoring, or who are choosing garments for special occasions.

"One area where it is bound to prove useful is helping brides and grooms in selecting from many different dresses and suits," said Mr Saito.

Although, many women find the thrill of trying on as many dresses as possible adds to the wedding shopping experience.

More likely, if a man walks into a tailor, he could choose a suit style from a database, stand in front of a display, and see his realistic avatar dressed in his selection.

"If he raises his arm, the image will raise its arm, and the virtual suit will also follows this movement, with the realistic creasing and shadowing as it does," said Mr Saito.

"As the customer does this, he can change design features, to make sure that he gets the suit he really wants."

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