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3D Body Scanning

Anthropology and Sizing (APD)

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Application of 3D Body Scanning in Retail and Visual Merchandizing

3D body scanning via AR/VR redefines the online and in-store experience. As brands increasingly deploy 3D scanning for virtual try-on, these kinds of smart garments will support greater personalization and the future of “augmented commerce.”

Augmented Reality (AR) Catalogue

Augmented reality is turning marketing materials into 3D experiences: Maggy London, for example, worked with Code & Craft to create an AR catalogue for mobile. Created using 3D scanning and Apple’s ARKit, users put a mobile phone up to items in the catalogue and could view them as realistic, virtual 3D products.

  • 3D scanning and AR are also reinventing the fitting room at home and in-store
  • TopShop has used in-store AR mirrors so customers don’t need to get physically undressed to try on clothes, while Uniqlo’s Magic Mirrors (right) let customers see how apparel they try on in-store looks in different colour options.
  • Neiman Marcus has introduced similar technology in some of its stores, partnering with MemoMi Labs to install 58 of the company’s Digital Mirrors in 37 locations in 2017.
Neiman Marcus
Digital Mirrors

Neiman Marcus has expanded the technology footprint in its stores since then. In 2019, the company unveiled its first Manhattan location in Hudson Yards, and with it a vision of what a tech-enabled retail experience of the future might look like. Technological innovations featured in the 188,000 square-foot location include:

  • Over 60 screens that broadcast promotional messages and real-time content across the store
  • Memory Makeover mirrors that let shoppers record beauty demonstrations and makeup tutorials to be texted or emailed to them for future reference
  • A smart fitting room experience powered by AlertTech that allows customers to customize their lighting, communicate with store associates check out directly from the fitting room.
  • A voice-controlled customer service platform by Theatro that uses artificial intelligence to help optimize associates’ time on the floor.
Shopping Scenes
Sketch of the System

In footwear, the AR-powered Converse Sampler app

It allows users to select any shoe from the Converse catalogue and see how it will look just by pointing their phone at their feet.

Virtual try-on is a piece of Amazon’s fashion plans, as well: a few months after its 2017 acquisition of 3D scanning startup Body Labs, the e-commerce giant applied for a patent for a “blended reality system” to create an AR mirror for at-home try-on. The patent was granted in January 2018. If commercialized, Amazon’s mirror invention could place users in virtual clothes and in virtual settings, allowing them to see what a dress would look like on the gala floor, or see a new swimsuit at the beach before completing a purchase.

Smart Leggins using 3D Body Scanning Technology

Thanks to 3D scanning technology, our clothes can even help us buy more clothes. For example, LikeAGlove has developed smart leggings that measure users’ figures and use the data to point them to specific styles and brands of pants that will fit them best.

Current Scenario of 3D Body Scanning

The ultimate goal of this technological innovation is to provide the customer with appropriate information and guide them in selecting the right apparel with a perfect fit. 3D scanning is still in its early stages of development, and its awareness among retailers and manufacturers as well as its application in the apparel industry is very minimal.

The cost involved in the process of body scanning is way too expensive to be utilized by consumers with an average income. This 3D process is not well integrated with the computer systems, thus making it seldom for the consumers to choose a design all by themselves. They have to rely on a professional designer to use the body data and alter the design pattern and create a customized garment that best fits the individual consumer. This again makes the body scanning process a complex matter and all the more expensive. Therefore a need for an affordable, and user-friendly body scanning system is required.

An important aspect of automation in garment manufacturing is related to the emerging 3D whole-body scanners in the market. 3D body scanners make a digital copy of the outside of the human body. This digital copy or body scan can be combined with clothing patterns to provide made-to-measure garments. The individually adapted digitized clothing patterns can be further processed, for instance, by automated grading and cutting.

This 3D body scanning technology may prove to be useful in reducing the number of returns in clothing webshops. There is currently a no good alternative for physically fitting garments in a retail store. Most webshops ask for the garment size, but the customer often has no cue on which size fits best, in particular, because of vanity sizing (a marketing tool used by several clothing manufacturers to adjust the size indicated in the garment to the desire of the customer). Several companies offer to send several clothing sizes to the customer so that they can be fitted at home, but this is an expensive and unsustainable method. Uploading the 3D scan data of the customer over the internet to the manufacturer or retailer may provide the opportunity of virtual fitting to determine the best fitting size or even to make made-to-measure garments. These options are currently investigated in the Dutch national project “fitting garments over the internet.


3D whole-body scanning enables the generation of an accurate digital copy of the outside of a human being for increasingly lower costs. The 3D scans can be imported into dedicated software that allows for the determination of the virtual fit of garments.

The face validity is good, but there is a need for more detailed validation of the models that are employed, in particular the simulation of material properties. The increased use of 3D scanners leads to large databases of different user populations. These databases can be employed to optimize sizing systems of garments so that a maximum part of the user population can find a fitting garment that comes in a minimal number of garment sizes.

Most 3D scanners are used in clothing settings to derive 1D body dimensions, such as hip circumference, so that manual measures become obsolete. However, it is good to realize that manual measures differ systematically from scan-derived measures and that the real potential of 3D scanners lies in the processing of human shapes. PCA offers a nice technique to evaluate the differences between humans in a certain population. Also, the principal components can be used in the design process.

Several organizations (ISO, NATO, IEEE) have started expert groups to establish standards on 3D body scanning and scan processing. These groups generally consist of a mixture of clothing scientists, IT experts, and anthropometrics. A realistic scenario for future clothing shopping may be that a customer uploads his/her 3D scan to the webshop of the retailer and gets a 3D view of the selected garment on his body. Tools may be available to change the design or materials according to customers’ desires. When satisfied, the customer may proceed to the payment section and receive a made-to-measure or selected garment at home.


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