Feb 19th 2014, 18:00, by Leena Rao
It looks like 3-D virtual try-on technology will soon make an appearance on eBay. The marketplace giant is announcing the acquisition of PhiSix, a company that develops 3-D visualization and simulation technologies for clothing.
The computer graphics company creates 3D models of clothing from photos, pattern files and other sources and simulates the behavior of the garments. PhiSix’s technology allows consumers to see how clothes fit, and look and move in different environments without actually having to try them on. The company could power a virtual fitting room so that shoppers can determine fit with physically accurate simulations of the garments. PhiSix is also able to recommend a size for the user’s body based on basic measurement inputs.
PhiSix was founded in 2012 by Jonathan Su, a former Intel research scientist who received his PhD in computer science from Stanford University. Su’s background is in special effects, and he has helped develop simulation technologies being used today by major Hollywood companies like ILM and DreamWorks to create scenes with life-like behavior and movement. Su and his team of three engineers will all be joining eBay’s Innovation and New Ventures team.
The in-store experience is equally compelling, explained Steve Yankovich, vice president of Innovation and New Ventures of eBay, in a call this morning. The startup’s 3D models would allow shoppers to use a virtual fitting room to view the clothes in various scenarios – such as walking down the street or hitting a golf club, rather than just using a dressing room. Customers could also use the technology to recommend other outfit in their size, and purchase the clothing directly from an app.
Yankovich also said that eBay is planning to integrate the technology across many of its properties, including the marketplace, mobile apps, and even third-party retailers that use eBay Enterprise (formerly Magento). Specifically on the marketplace, Yankovich explains that virtual try on features could help reduce the friction that some purchasers face when contemplating whether they should purchase an item without seeing it or trying it on.
Of course, it’s important to note that virtual try-on technologies have been around for some time. But they haven’t really picked up much traction as a de facto replacement for physically trying on clothing Yankovich acknowledges this but believes that if the company integrates the technology in the right way and keeps iterating, this will be the future.
eBay’s taking more steps to make its marketplace and other assets more of a shopping destination. Offering technologies like virtual try could help make the product experience better, as Yankovich says. The company is also reportedly debuting a new vertical this spring called The Plaza on eBay that will focus on direct-to-consumer sales.