Would You Give A Search Engine a 3D Model of Your Body?

You go to the store, and find the perfect pair of shoes, except that they don’t have them in your size, or in the color that you want.

You shop online, and try to find a pair of pants and a shirt that match, except that it’s hard to tell how they will look together.

Can a search engine help you make shopping easier?

Imagine a different scenerio, now…

You go to a facility to create a 3-dimensional scan of your body which you can then upload to a clothing search engine and recommendation system. Or you enter detailed body measurements into that search and recommendation system.

You create a user profile that details things such as your skin color, eye color, hair style/color, whether or not you wear glasses, and other details about your appearance.

In addition to this personal information, you can also add non-personal information, such as the type or color of clothing you are presently looking for. Other details can be entered, such as your location, the season of the year, your hairstyle, where you are planning to go while wearing the clothes you are looking for, such as a business meeting or a restaurant or night club.

Your clothing preferences could be added to this profile, including themes such as formal or casual or workout clothes. If you like specific brands of clothes, those could also be added. Your preferences for certain materials and color palette preferences could be entered.

This fashion search engine could then be used to enable clothing experts and “friends” to recommend clothes for you, to let clothing advertisers target you with ads that match what you might want to find, and to let a search engine provide recommendations based upon aggregated user profiles and user recommendations.

The clothes could be shown on the 3D model that you submitted, or that was built based upon your submitted measurements.

A patent filing from Yahoo describes a Fashion Search Engine that can use a 3-dimensional model to present clothing, a way for others to provide clothing recommendations, and a matching algorithm that can help you find clothes that match.

Why Build a Fashion Search Engine/Recommendation System?

The patent application provides a laundry list (sorry for the pun – couldn’t help it) of costs and limitations associated with shopping for clothes at a store or online.

Both can take a considerable amount of time, and provide the risk that you might miss out on something that you might want, but haven’t come across.

When buying online, there’s a risk that the clothes purchased might be the wrong color or size or style or fabric. There’s also no way to insure that those clothes match, and that they can be worn together.

You also can’t always easily bring along others with you when you shop to make suggestions or recommendations.

The patent application is:

Method for Search and Marketing Fashion Garments Online
Invented by David Burgess, Shyam Kapur, and Caitlin Smallwood
Assigned to Yahoo
US Patent Application 20090019053
Published January 15, 2009
Filed July 13, 2007

Abstract

A method of generating clothing recommendations for a potential purchaser uses user-specific information to generate a list of suggested garments for the user and displays a graphical representation of the garments.

The user-specific information may include recommendations from one or more friends, fashion experts, or other purchasers, optionally including information based on purchasing history or shopping history of other purchasers. The graphical representation may include a three-dimensional representation. Recommendations may be prioritized based on ranking.

The user profile values that you enter could be updated at any time, so that if you lose or gain weight, it can allow for those changes. Or if you are searching for a bathing suit one day, and a business suit the next, you receive the appropriate results for your search. It also allows for recommendations from others…

Wisdom of the Shopping Crowds

The fashion search results you see could be based upon a mixture of factors, such as:

Expert Recommendations – clothes could be recommended by an “expert,” who has been hired to make these kinds of recommendations

Friend Recommendations – Other users of this system might be given permission by the person searching to access parts of his or her user profile that are needed to make a recommendation, and may make recommendations for clothes.

These “friends” of the searcher could be added to the user profile for future use, and this recommendation/searching system might send them an alert via email or instant messenger when the searcher is looking for new clothes.

The searcher could rate or rank the recommendations of their friends, other users and the experts, and that information might be stored in the user profile as well as being aggregated with other ratings or rankings, in a “wisdom of the crowds” approach to help other searchers by bringing the:

“best” users and experts to the forefront so that users of the system can continuously find other people’s recommendations to help them with their clothing searches.

Historic Shopping Data

This fashion search might collect data about the searcher’s purchasing and searching habits over time to help them find “relevant” clothing. Examples include

how many times the user has searched for a particular brand of shirt in the last 12 months, or requested recommendations from a particular expert, or purchased jeans that cost less than $150, etc.

Feedback on Clothes

A shopper might provide information on clothes that they purchased, flagging brands and sizes as favorites, or rating or ranking the recommendations of experts and requesting recommendations from them in the future or suggesting them to friends.

The shopper might also add feedback to their profile about clothes that they already own, even if they didn’t purchase those clothes through the system, to inform it about their likes and dislikes, and to let friends comment on, and rate those clothes.

Matching Algorithm

A matching algorithm could also be used to help someone find clothes, by taking information from the user profile, and gathering clothes or complete outfits that match what the searcher is looking for.

The searcher can add rules to the system, such as “all t-shirts go with all jeans”, or “these shoes go with all jeans,” or “this color “goes with” that color.”

Recommendations could be made to the searcher on things such as matching shoes or pants or shirts, etc.

Presenting Clothes to a Searcher

Once a search has been completed, the clothes found could be presented to the searcher on the 3D model, if that feature is available for all clothes suggested and the searcher wants to see them on the model.

The model could be rotated, so that the searcher can see the clothes from different angles.

Different sizes, colors, and styles of the clothes shown could be changed on the model as desired, as long as the designer or manufacturer or distributor offers those options.

Made-to-measure clothes that are custom tailored could also be shown, and alterations for those could be made on the screen, such as adjusting a hem on a pair of pants or bringing in the waist on a shirt.

Advertising Along Side Suggested Clothes

In addition to showing the searcher suggested clothing, this system might present ads based upon what the searcher is looking for, as well as information found in the searcher’s profile. These ads might also be shown while the user of this fashion search engine is using other applications, such as email.

Purchasing

This fashion search and recommendation system would enable searchers to add the clothes that they’ve found to a shopping cart to be purchased.

It may also make further recommendations based upon selections for purchase, such as shoes to go with the clothes chosen.

Conclusion

Last June, I wrote about a Yahoo patent filing for a Meal Search that would try to help make it easier for people trying to find a restaurant or recipes or nutrition information to locate that information. Seeing Yahoo come up with a very focused and limited type of search that would solve a specific set of tasks appeared to be an interesting exercise from the search engine/portal.

This Fashion search also provides a very focused and limited kind of approach to solving a problem that they believe exists when people try to shop for clothes online or offline.

A number of people commented on my post about the meal search that they didn’t believe that restaurants would provide information about the meals that they offered, including nutritional information, to make such a system work. Would clothing manufacturers and distributers provide the 3-dimensional models to Yahoo that would make a fashion search work the way that they envision?

Would people use a fashion search engine like this, and provide detailed information about themselves to the search engine, including a 3-dimensional model of themselves? Would you?

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28 thoughts on “Would You Give A Search Engine a 3D Model of Your Body?”

  1. Personally, no, I would not use this service.

    However, I am sure a lot of people would use it.

    After all, people post all sorts of embarrassing images of themselves online, so providing a search engine with a 3D scan of their body pales in comparison.

  2. It would be a step forward for the online retail community. At this point, I cannot see most consumers accepting this idea, but when you hear that Amazon is one of the most trusted brands in retail (offline and online), you can see that sentiment is turning towards using online services. Such a bodyscan would make shopping for fashion easier in the online environment. That ease of use is what will draw consumers to that system.

  3. Hi People Finder,

    Would the convenience of such a service overcome concerns about privacy? :)

    I suspect that if this service was available, there would be a good number of people who might want to use it.

  4. Hi Frank,

    Thanks. I think your raise some good points.

    I think that there might be some resistence to a fashion search and recommendation system, but there are people who would use it, and that audience would grow over time if done right.

    Amazon does do many things that make its site a good shopping experience, from the “look inside the book” approach, to wishlists and recommendations, to making it very easy to order from them. One of the things that I like about actually going into bookstores is the ability to browse through shelves, and pick books up and leaf through the pages. Amazon captures some of that.

    It will be interesting to see what Yahoo makes of this, if they move forward with it, to bring out the best of linline and offline shopping, and make it convenient enough to encourage people to use it.

  5. Myself, I would use this services (I don’t do much clothing shopping as it is) but I’m sure other people would use it. It sounds pretty interesting and I would love to see it in action.

  6. Hmmm. An quite interesting approach. Actually it’s a little strange to imagine that yahoo! or whoever know how I ‘i look like’. On the other hand the search engines already know so much about me, what I like, what I do…telling them my size wouldn’t be that much more…would it?

    Anyway I think it’s quite impressive how search engines try to find more and more ways of getting more and more ‘vertical’ in order to find more niches and to feed – or at first to find – the need for more personalization.

    I’m looking forward to see how Yahoo! is trying to get his piece of the search engine cake back =)

  7. Hi seosean,

    Thanks. I’d like to see it in action, too.

    I don’t believe that I’ve ever bought clothes online, but I might be tempted with a system like this if it provides a much greater amount of choices than local stores.

  8. Hi Sascha,

    It is interesting to see Yahoo focus upon more narrow niches like a fashion/clothing search and recommendation system. It does differentiate them from Google, which I think is a good idea. It could be a way to get more search related traffic, by offering something that the other search engines don’t.

    I’m wondering if their background as a portal first and search engine second is part of the influence behind an approach like this.

  9. Sounds like a lot of fun. But as you point out this does have a few flaws. That said I do remember a chap in South Africa doing a Dot Co Za (.co.za) project where he would lock himself away in a house with a few basic essentials and eventually fill the house and his wardrobe with items that he’d purchased online. Surprisingly he was able to perform quite well. You might be surprised to hear me say surprisingly, but here in South Africa (mostly due to telecommunications being severely handicapped) most businesses still don’t have an online presence and at best they only offer off-line contact info.

    Okay, all of that to bring you up to speed. :)

    The whole point here was that the only thing this poor guy wasn’t able to eventually order online was a pair of shoes. Mostly because he couldn’t find a local supplier or he didn’t understand international sizing…etc. This idea however would make it a heck of a lot easier to find something. Even if it’s not an exact match I’m sure that many who might not have had access for what ever reason would more than thrilled to at least have the option.

  10. The 3D image of a person should be kept private or public. But this is a good start for the web 3.0. I think developers should take some time making the “First Mall on the Web”.

  11. Why do I see those Yahoo guys come with different patents and never achieve something…or maybe they’re abandoning the ‘general website search engine’ strategy and going for more specialized search engines?

    Personally if this thing is available (with several privacy issues dealt of course) I would be one of the FIRST to use it because I personally hate going to different clothing shops and trying 10 jeans and stuff like that lol.

  12. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for describing someone who would be a great audience for a service like this.

    There are people who would benefit greatly from a clothes search/recommendation system like the one described in the patent application. There are people who can’t leave home for one reason or another who would probably really appreciate something like this. Others may not have the kind of access to offline shopping and local online shopping that many people do. And even others may like it just because of how convenient it sounds like it could be.

    I can imagine a decent sized audience for this search/recommendation system.

  13. Hi Charles,

    Privacy is one of my concerns about this, and the patent application really doesn’t discuss the privacy implications surrounding a 3-dimensional model.

    I do think there’s a lot of potential for something like this to do very well. I hope, like you do, that it’s done really well.

  14. Hi Mark,

    I’m not sure that it would hurt Yahoo too much to spend some more time focusing upon narrower searches like a fashion search. It’s an interesting way to provide a different approach that people might find useful.

    Instead of imitating and emulating Google, providing something unique and useful isn’t a bad idea.

  15. Hehe interesting post, never even crossed my mind about 3d data for real humans being indexable by a search engine. Would I do it? Sure :P

  16. Ha ha! I apologize for the outrageous level of sexism in my reply but this really tickled me today! This truly highlights the difference in shopping between men and women.

    In addition to this personal information, you can also add non-personal information, such as the type or color of clothing you are presently looking for. Other details can be entered, such as your location, the season of the year, your hairstyle, where you are planning to go while wearing the clothes you are looking for, such as a business meeting or a restaurant or night club.

    This is the best part – for a man, being able to find an outfit for a specific occasion might be useful and an attractive idea. For a woman – who finding an occasion for that gorgeous outfit you just bought is more likely to be the way that it works!

    Of course, recommendations on where to find fantastic clothing and deals are always going to be welcome, but being this specific will ruin the impulse fun of shopping for clothes!

  17. Hi Neticule ,

    It is an interesting idea to combine 3-D modeling with a search/recommendation system. I could see it used in areas other than just clothing as well.

  18. Hi Claire,

    I’m not sure I understand the point that you’re making. I don’t think that the patent application is making any assumptions that might prove to misunderstand the differences between the ways that men and women may shop, not is my summary/description of what is included in the patent filing.

    It appears that if you create a profile, and ask for recommendations, that this system will give you better recommendations if you provide more information, such as the kinds of activities that you might engage in when wearing the clothes you are looking for.

  19. I think the last thing i would like to see would be a digital representation of myself, let alone upload it to the web :P

  20. While I think this would be really cool and would have tremendous popularity/revenue potential, I could see *a lot* of people having a problem with it. A whole slew of issues come up like, where will this information be stored? Will it be as widely resold as our email address are now? Imagine the highly targeted spam you’d be getting. The benefits could be great, I’d love even for advertisements shown to me to contain items that fit me specifically. It would make searches much easier. But the potential downfalls are very far-reaching as well. There would need to be a way to keep this information completely unrelated to any sort of identifying information about you. -James

  21. Hi James,

    I think it’s pretty cool as well. I’m torn between wanting to see this kind of shopping available, and being very concerned about how invasive it is to privacy.

  22. I think this is a great idea, and certainly inline with the future of the Net. However I fail to understand why many of the responses here have concerns about privacy. Surely this would be no different to the existing online shopping systems of logging into a secure server and making a purchase. I’d certainly be more concerned about the implications of having my name, address, credit card information and purchase history stored online than I would about having a stylised 3D image of myself online.

    Given that the majority of people accept the pitfalls of online shopping as acceptable risks compared to the benefits, I really don’t think it will be an issue in the long run.

    Now if they’d only invent a way for me to upload a psych profile of my wife so they can recommend the perfect gift, or send me a message on a purchase saying “we don’t think she’s going to let you have that gadget”, my life will be complete! ;P

  23. Hi Akitora,

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. Privacy is one of the issues about data collection and the Web that concern a lot of people, and I think it’s often warranted, especially considering the lack of direct face-to-face dealings and things like phishing attacks and scams that can be seen online.

    There is a risk associated with shopping on the Web, and with providing things like credit card numbers and purchase history. I’d guess that most people have an expectation that online shops have experience in providing security for those kinds of transactions, and financial transactions are fairly common place on the web.

    In a shopping system like this, which is novel in a number of ways, people would be asked to provide personally identifiable information about themselves that go beyond what you often seen in a normal online shopping environment. There’s a science fiction element to it, like in the movie Minority Report. That psych report that you mention might not be too far off. :)

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  25. OK, I know that the online clothing business is growing but recently, very successful companies in hte UK have seen that growth slow right down – this market ir reaching its natural size – bear with me! I’m a man, I work hard and the last thing that I ever ever ever want to do in my spare time is shop for clothes so maybe I would use it – no! I can’t even shop for clothes online (sport, now that’s a different matter). My wife does all of that and herein lies the problem with general and fashion clothing – the experience. Women love to shop, not because they like spending money, but because other women like to shop. They get to see what other women are buying, trends, fashions and things like how much money other women have. Secondly, when the wife does buy her clothing online, she will order 10 dresses, purchase 1 and send the other 9 back. I know that this is replicated in many households, I speak to men whilst participating in sports and they can’t understand it either!

  26. Hi Ed,

    Some people do enjoy shopping for the experience of it as much as finding new clothes, and I agree with you that there’s a social element to the whole thing.

    There are some elements of what the patent describes that are also pretty social, such as being able to send others an image of you in certain clothes, and get their opinions, or to ask for advice from others. I’m not sure that online shops can duplicate the shopping experience that you’ve described, but maybe they can create a new kind of experience that captures some essential elements of that experience. It would be interesting to see.

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