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Fashion Advice from a Billboard? The Future Tech that Could Go Mainstream

In the not so distant future, an artificial-intelligence-powered digital sign could use a sophisticated system of cameras and computer vision to serve up personalized fashion ads based on what you’re wearing.

Whether you think that’s cool or creepy, it’s among the forward-thinking fashion tech ideas in development at the Microsoft-backed Future of Fashion incubator in collaboration with the London College of Fashion (LCF).

According to The Evening Standard, LCF’s Mark Dinoulis brainstormed the SmartSigns concept, which displays ads tailored to the closest person, based on the style of the garments he or she is wearing. SmartSigns would also steer the viewer to stores nearby that carry the advertised apparel.

Pouncing on the wearable tech movement, other designers are looking at new ways to intelligently incorporate technology into garments for the benefit of both the brand and the consumer. Design by Data, for example, is considering the use of RFID threads embedded into clothing to track a garment’s lifecycle over time, gathering data that could improve on future product designs. Yet another group is innovating the athletic aspect of wearables, building a mobile app that would live not in a phone or wristwatch-style device but would be embedded into athletic garb itself, via accelerometers, insole tilt sensors and flexible sensors built into soft goods. Wearers could also use the app to connect with athletes of similar ability, Microsoft said.

Despite—or perhaps because of—luxury’s sluggishness in adapting to the digital revolution, another design cohort dreamed up a mixed-reality multibrand luxury boutique that immerses viewers, via the Hololux virtual reality (VR) headset, in a high fashion experience. It’s likely to appeal to online-only high-end retailers that miss out on the “magic” of the store experience. Using Hololux headsets, people can shop together, and there’s a social component that enables wearers to show off the contents of their shopping bags to followers, for example. Among the benefits of the virtual environment is that most products can be more thoughtfully displayed than a brick-and-mortar space would reasonably allow.

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VR has proven itself as a valuable tool for spatial planning; Lowe’s, for instance, offers a VR experience that lets customers visualize what large items like appliances would look like in their homes, affording greater confidence in big-ticket purchases. Similarly, Augmenta gives designers a mixed-reality headset-based experience in which to plan new boutique spaces. Inside the experience they can easily switch around fixtures, mannequins, cash wraps and more, doing the “heavy lifting” in the virtual arena in order to minimize the hard labor of moving around bulky items in real life.

There seems to be strong interest in digitizing wardrobes, judging by yet another group in the incubator and other recent efforts. Many Americans live with overflowing closets, so creating a virtual version can give consumers a better sense of everything they own, which in turn could better inform future purchases. The incubator cohort envisions using AI to recommend complementary products based on garments and styles that a digitized wardrobe already contains.