We’re familiar with the long list of industries automation is disrupting, from manufacturing, to agriculture, to transportation — and now robots are coming for the runway.
Our new patents search engine uncovered that on Jan. 24, Amazon received approval for a patent (originally filed Dec. 2013) for an automated fashion model, or “Automated Garment Photography With Fit Adjustment.” The patent describes a robotic mannequin that can expand, contract, and strike a variety of poses for its connected, automated photographer.
The robotic mannequin can assume different poses, and it can expand and contract across the chest, waist, and hips to represent different body shapes and sizes. An automated “fit-adjustment mechanism” adjusts the clothing as the mannequin’s body shifts, preventing any potential wardrobe malfunctions.
Pressure sensors also cover the mannequin, and can sense if a garment pulls too tight across a certain area for certain body shapes, or causes a “styling issue, such as an unattractive crease.”
From a business perspective, this system could save Amazon (which already launched several of its own in-house clothing brands) and other retailers time and money by mitigating the need for human clothing models, photographers, and editors. According to Amazon, stylists today spend up to four hours photographing a garment in as many poses and sizes as this mannequin can show off quickly. The system even promises to simplify advertising, by automatically identifying the photo in which the mannequin’s size and posture shows off the garment’s best fit.
These adjustable mannequins could be used to show clothing for theoretically infinite range of body types and sizes and also help slow the rate of returns for online clothing purchases — a major financial burden, since many e-commerce sites, including Amazon, offer free returns. The WSJ reported that return rates for online purchases reach up to 30%, and processing returns cost retailers roughly 8% of revenue. The patent notes that since sizing can vary across brands, it may not do online shoppers much good to merely see a number on a label.
If the robo-model works, the shopper could better understand how a piece of clothing would look on his/her specific body type before buying. As the platform grows, Amazon would gain data on the body types of shoppers that buy certain styles, and could ultimately personalize their marketing, or even tweak the design and production of their in-house clothing to better suit different demographics.
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