The future of getting dressed: AI, VR and smart fabrics


Cher Horowitz’s closet from the film “Clueless” had a futuristic computer system that helped her put together outfits. Back in 1995, the concept teased what it might be like to get dressed in the future.

Technology has evolved a lot since then, but closets have been largely untouched by innovation.

Now, that’s starting to change.

“If algorithms do their job well, people will spend less time thinking about what to wear,” said Ranjitha Kumar, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From artificial intelligence and gadgets to smart fabrics and virtual reality, technology is poised to breathe innovation into not only how we dress but how we shop.

The most recognizable example is Amazon’s Echo Look, which received significant buzz when it was announced earlier this year. The gadget ($200) serves as a style assistant to help you decide what to wear.

Like Amazon’s other smart speakers, the Echo Look will tell you the weather or play music. But the oval-shaped product also has a voice-controlled camera for taking photos of you in various outfits. It works alongside an app.

After snapping photos of you in two outfits in front of the device, its built-in Style Check tool decides which one is best. It leans on a combination of machine learning technology and human opinion.

Amazon’s “fashion specialists” train the software to be a judge of style. The automated results consider “fit, color, styling, seasons and current trends.” It’ll also suggest similar styles to buy from various brands. Through testing, we found that the suggestions can be hit or miss.

“The brand selection is pretty limited, and while the Echo Look may help you decide between two looks, it can’t take into account the total context of where you’re going,” said personal stylist and creative director Taylor Okata.

Okata, whose clients include E! and SELF Magazine, doesn’t consider the technology a threat to his work: “There’s just that interpersonal communication that it just doesn’t have.”

Meanwhile, retail experts say the Echo Look’s success will depend on if it adds more value than just asking a friend for fashion advice.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at research firm Forrester, said those buying the device are early adopters — and it lacks widespread appeal.

“It’s such a foreign concept to rely on a device to tell you what to wear,” she told CNN Tech.

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