For some brides-to-be, wedding dress shopping might be exhilarating – but it also takes a lot of time and patience to find the perfect-fitting dress.
Enter Wedding Reality Inc., a Toronto-based startup aiming to help brides virtually try on dresses, narrowing down their choices before they head into stores. Through Wedding Dress Studio, a free iPad app, brides will be able to load pictures of themselves to see what fabrics and designs look best on their body types, showing how augmented reality can be used for both fashion and e-commerce. Users will be able to choose from almost 300 unique dress designs, plus they’ll be able to design their own dresses by choosing the shape, neckline, fabric, and embellishments. The app is set to launch sometime next week.
While Wedding Reality launched just six months ago, its technology has actually been four years in the making. The four-person team at Wedding Reality recently patented a fabric mapping technology that allows it to figure out how different types of fabric will look when stretched over different sizes and surfaces.
“The project looked at, how does fabric get remapped and stretched? How does a dress look different on one person or another? … We wanted to create something with a big market impact,” says Parham Aarabi, founder of Wedding Reality, and the former Canada Research Chair in Internet video, audio, and image processing.
As a professor of computer engineering at the University of Toronto, his work has focused on signal processing and computer graphics, skills that stood him in good stead in designing the company’s technology. Nor is this Aarabi’s first business – he also founded Modiface Inc., a company that provides virtual makeovers through facial recognition technology.
While using augmented reality in e-commerce isn’t a new idea, as cosmetics and eyewear companies have used the technology for some time now, he adds there hasn’t really been anything this accurate for wedding apparel.
That’s because it’s actually very difficult to virtually map out fabric. Each fabric has its own characteristics – for example, silk will stretch differently from cotton, and a dress that is designed to be tight-fitting will look very different from a more flowy, relaxed design. And then, of course, mapping fabric means accounting for other variables, like hip and shoulder measurements, which differ from person to person.
And right now, Wedding Reality’s app still can’t map out more complicated fabrics like lace, or material with heavy detailing like embroidery. Nor is the app compatible with every body type. The team will be working on developing those features once the app is out and people have had a chance to play with it, Aarabi says. He adds the company’s ambition is to give brides images that are as accurate as possible, allowing them to walk into a store with their conception of the perfect dress.
“So far, people have just shown dresses floating on top of the body,” he says. “But with our app, our goal is to take a good photo that should look realistic. If you send this photo to Mom and Grandma, they should believe this is real life and that you’re really trying on this dress.”
He adds in the future, the company will aim to monetize its app by partnering with wedding dress shops and offering coupons and deals to app users.