Amazon uses photos to make t-shirts, turning data into personalized products



SAN FRANCISCO – For the second time in a month, Amazon has launched a product that requires photos of your body. He says he uses them to help you become more attractive, not to amass compromising photos of you in various states of undress.

The first was the Halo fitness app, which requires you to strip down to your underwear for a 360-degree body scan to determine your body fat percentage. The idea was to help you work towards a better body, although the app doesn’t fully explain how.

The latest is a little less invasive. Made for You is a new Amazon service that takes a front and side photo in tight fitting (but covering the body) clothing to produce a bespoke t-shirt. The reason, according to Amazon, is to remove the tedious step of selecting a size.

Like the Halo, Made for You uses your smartphone’s camera to take the photos, uploads them to Amazon’s servers, and uses software to extract the relevant data about your unique shape, from the head to somewhere below. of your hips. Amazon says the photos are never seen by people and are deleted after use.

(Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Photos taken with smartphones or special cameras are a growing source of information for fitness programs, fashion companies and more. Fitness apps like Naked use their own expensive cameras to create 3D body scans to measure and track weight loss or muscle gain. Fashion brands and apps are adding virtual try-on options for clothing, including the Zeekit app, which takes a photo of your body in a tank top and shorts to layer on virtual shirts and pants.

Because Amazon has already seen me a lot less for the Halo Body Fat Analysis, I decided to give it a go at creating a custom shirt. The process walks you through a number of options on Amazon’s main app, from color and length to neck shape and fabric. It’s not just about using a few photos, you also need to enter your weight and height.

Then he creates what Amazon calls your “virtual body double,” a slightly drab (sorry, fake me) computer-generated lookalike that wears a version of the shirt so you can see what it looks like. This final pattern is used to sew your garment somewhere in the United States, and all photographs of your body are deleted from Amazon’s servers after the virtual model is created, according to the company.

So what does a custom $ 25 t-shirt look like? I’m not a professional t-shirt reviewer yet, but the end result was a clean, drab top. The fit seemed comparable to a normal small shirt. The only sign that it was custom made was the overly literal flare around the hips and my name on the label. (You can choose any custom message up to nine characters long.)

The real revealing of a t-shirt is its hold over time. After three uses, one wash and one tumble dryer, the quality of the Amazon t-shirt seems solid so far. The seams are clean and the shirt has retained its shape and size. There are probably benefits to having the custom option for anyone struggling with traditional sizes, but it seems like an unnecessary step (and expense) for anyone who is OK with out-of-the-box sizes. .

The company got into, and then shut down, a fashion product that had photographed people before. The $ 199 Echo Look was a heavily covered and seemingly under-bought oddity that Amazon released in 2017. An oblong camera that captured and recorded photos and short videos of you in various outfits, it used a combination of artificial intelligence and “specialist fashion advice” to judge your appearance and give advice. Amazon announced in May that it was discontinuing the Look hardware. But don’t worry, you can still take pictures of your outfit in Amazon Shopping’s main app to get comments like “Add a pair of black heeled ankle boots.”

Costly additional equipment is becoming less and less necessary for this type of technology. Smartphone cameras are improving and advancements in image processing technology allow more accurate 3D measurements to be taken from 2D images. Apple’s latest iPhone Pro added lidar – complex sensors that use laser lights to map a scene – which could make similar images even more accurate.

Years of offering biometrics to regular consumers can make what seems like a risky proposition less alarming. Most smartphone owners have become accustomed to entrusting their devices with sensitive personal information about their body, using their face or fingerprints to quickly unlock devices.

But more than faces, the detailed shape of our bodies can seem revealing and personal. Especially when it’s not being used as some sort of authentication with the extra layers of security and encryption that biometrics promises. Companies that ask for body photographs and videos think the payoff is worth it.

The MTailor app has been using smartphone cameras to personalize clothing, primarily men’s clothing, for six years. The service uses a technique similar to that of Amazon Made for You. Instead of having a family member take your photo, you put the camera on the ground and turn around for a video. The software will correct the weak, somewhat flattering angle. MTailor’s clothing is sewn in Asia and then shipped to the buyer.

Miles Penn, CEO of MTailor, says he can see why Amazon would start with T-shirts. The item is easier to fit than, say, pants or a suit, and more tolerant of measurement error.

If successful, the shirts could be the first in a company’s clothing line. Amazon has struggled to break into fashion the same way it has with other products. Unlike something utilitarian like a battery, fashion is harder to replicate with generic Amazon brands.

Virtual sewing also offers obvious benefits during a pandemic. It’s a way to get well-fitting clothes without going to the tailor shop, where social distancing is impossible, or having to try on clothes in crowded retail stores. Unfortunately, the same situation that makes virtual clothing shopping appealing also makes new clothes pretty pointless, unless they’re sweatpants.

“Frankly, not many people buy costumes if they can’t go to weddings or whatever, so it’s been tough,” Penn said.

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