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Published: 4 Mar 2013

United Arrows MarionetteBot Mannequins


Proving that no area of visual merchandising is immune to technological enhancement, Japanese clothing brand United Arrows has begun trialling robotic mannequins in the windows of its Narita Airport store in Tokyo.

Dubbed MarionetteBots, the figures use Microsoft’s Kinect technology to mirror the poses of the people facing them. While it may appear gimmicky, this kind of ‘reflective tech’ that echoes consumers’ own movements may well hold real value.

In 2012, lingerie brand Triumph, in collaboration with London-based augmented reality retail specialist Holition (for more see Holition: The Interview), created a motion-sensing mirror in Selfridges to give consumers a more accurate understanding of how Triumph’s new lingerie line would look when actually being worn. Body-scanning cameras created loosely corresponding digital avatars whose movements echoed those of the consumers. While the avatars’ body shapes weren’t an accurate match with the consumer (the shape remained at a generic size), the fact that the kinetic responses did echo movement to an almost eerily high degree proved to be a huge lure; customers queued around the block.

Holition has since developed a “Magic Mirror” for Japanese fast-fashion brand Uniqlo. Based in the brand’s San Francisco store, the Magic Mirror is essentially a 60-inch touchscreen monitor that uses a Microsoft Kinect colour-changing engine, allowing customers to actually see the garments they have on change colour (virtually) before their eyes (click here for more information).

Virtual fitting rooms in general are a hot topic of debate – both for retailers needing systems to avoid the huge number of product returns damaging their e-commerce sales, and those looking to speed up trying on clothes in-store. Stylus explores the possibilities in Virtual Fitting Rooms.

For more on mannequin design and retail trends with a technological edge, see our coverage of the A.R.E Retail Design Collective show .

United Arrows


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