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  • Eliza Brooke

Could In-Home 3D Body Scanners Change How We Shop for Clothes?

On Thursday, July 19, around 5:45 pm, I accepted an offer to test out a 3D body scanner and discovered that I possess an absurd slouch. Apparently I turtle my neck forward at a 45-degree angle even when I’m not bowing at the altar of my laptop, which would explain why it hurts so much to tilt my head backward. Swiveling a silvery rendering of my body from side to side on an iPhone, I was surprised at how readily I recognized myself and yet how little I knew about my back issues.

This, I suppose, is one use of the consumer body scanner that a startup called Naked Labs is shipping to customers for the first time Wednesday. While the founders are initially marketing it as a health and fitness tool for people to track changes in their measurements, body fat percentage, and overall shape, they’re already talking with clothing retailers about applications in e-commerce and custom manufacturing.

The product suite comprises a modern-looking standing mirror, a scale, and an app, which collectively cost $1,395. Wearing underwear or exercise clothing, you place the scale in front of the mirror (a little red laser dot will indicate where it should go), hop on, and stand still with your arms away from your sides. Once the mirror’s sensors are warmed up, the scale starts rotating slowly. It’s not as alarming as it sounds. The mirror uses depth cameras to measure the distance to your body and then stitches together that information into a 3D rendering, which uploads to the app in about three minutes.

The result is an Oscar statuette-like avatar that looks like you, with a blurrier face. (On the topic of data privacy, especially for those who use the scanner in the buff, co-founder and chief operating officer Ed Sclater was quick to point out that the mirror isn’t taking photographs: it’s taking spatial measurements. Likewise, users own their individual Naked Labs data and can delete it permanently at any time.)

It’s not hard to imagine a world, as described by Sclater, where Naked Labs users can upload their body models to Nordstrom’s e-commerce site and then see products in their size only. Naked Labs has been in conversation with both high-end and mid-tier brands about this, which surprised Sclater, who said he expected to see interest mainly from online retailers selling more expensive clothing. “For a lot of these companies, if they can save on return shipping, it has an enormous impact on their operational capabilities and efficiency,” he says. Likewise, ordering custom clothing from afar would be infinitely simpler if a scanner could do all the measuring for the shopper. Putting Naked Labs’ scanners in stores is a “possibility,” but it looks like any retail integration would start in the e-commerce space with home users. It’s more private and comfortable to scan yourself at home than to do so in a shop, Sclater says. At $1,395, it’s more likely that individuals would buy a Naked Labs mirror for fitness reasons, with online shopping as a bonus. As with all things e-commerce these days, you have to wonder what the Amazon version of this would look like. After acquiring the 3D body scanning startup Body Labs in 2017, Amazon has been creating 3D renderings of volunteers for a “wide range of commercial applications.” How about an Alexa-style scanner that can integrate individuals’ size data with its entire clothing selection? It’s easy to see, much like my bad posture.

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