CSIRO taps augmented reality for the future of shopping, but Aussies can’t see it yet

Before you buy a pair of shoes or glasses, you generally go in store to try them on, before deciding if they’re right for you and then plonking that money down. That’s the old way, though, and there’s a tech savvy solution developed in Australia showing a new way.

The technological answer to a consumerist world appears to be one where you don’t even have to leave your seat, and an Australian organisation is right at the forefront of that, developing a technology to let people try on fashion accessories without even letting the products touch their face.

In development at the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) for a few years now, a team there has come up with “smart vision” research that uses cameras on computers and tablets to track a face in real time and create a 3D model from that head.

Essentially, the technology maps a 3D space from images received on a camera and allows digital models to be placed on that head, which means you can be seen wearing a hat, necklace, or a pair of glasses, even if you’re looking at the camera wearing none of those things.

The technology is so good that an American retailer has picked up the exclusive rights to use the technology for eyewear, allowing customers overseas to try on a pair of sunglasses by just looking at their iPad camera and letting the technology do the rest.

“Our computer modelling experts have developed a more accurate and reliable way to create a 3D scan of a person’s face using newly developed algorithms that can turn 2D images from a mobile camera into a 3D model of the face,” said Simon Lucey, Group Research Leader for the CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services division.

“The technology calculates size so unlike other virtual try-on technologies, customers can try on and view products from any angle — perfectly scaled to their face.”

With American retailer Glasses.com owning the exclusive rights to the technology and how it works with eyewear, Australians can’t yet try it, as the iPad app which makes use of this tech just isn’t available in Australia at this time.

That said, a representative for the CSIRO did tell us that it was working to find local businesses who could make use of the technology in other ways, including healthcare and entertainment.

“Up until now, augmented reality was something of a parlour trick,” said Jonathan Coon, CEO of the company that owns Glasses.com, 1-800-Contacts, adding that “it was fun but just not accurate or easy enough to be useful.”

“Our hope is that the app will be to augmented-reality shopping what ‘Toy Story’ was for computer-generated animated films – it’s just the beginning,” said Coon.