The new system builds up a detailed image of body measurements, making it much easier for the shopper to order the correct size for their body dimensions

The new system builds up a detailed image of body measurements, making it much easier for the shopper to order the correct size for their body dimensions

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Researchers in the UK have developed a web-based body scanning application, which claims to provide precise measurements and may help drive online clothes shopping.

The software - which is expected to be launched commercially within two years - would be downloaded by the shopper and, in conjunction with a webcam or smartphone, work like a 'virtual' tape measure to take accurate waist, hip, chest and other measurements.

It would then advise the user on which size garment to buy whenever they visit the website of a participating retailer.

Body scanning is already starting to make a mark in the clothing retail sector, but the new system is said to be able to offer greater precision than anything else available in-store or online.

This is because it takes measurements at a number of different points on the body and combines these with a person's overall proportions to build up a detailed 3D image.

"The potential benefits for the fashion industry and for shoppers are huge," said Philip Delamore from London College of Fashion. "Currently, it's common for online shoppers to order two or three different sizes of the same item of clothing at the same time, as they're unsure which one will fit best."

Most online shoppers also tend to buy clothes on the basis of waist size or small/medium/large labels, whose accuracy is inevitably limited and often depends on the shopper's subjective perception of their own body size. The new system should avoid these problems. 

It is hoped that a logo and possibly a pop-up on the computer screen would appear on the websites of participating retailers.

And, as slight variations often exist in the proportions of clothes with the same label size but produced by different manufacturers, retailers would also supply detailed information about the size of all their individual garments. 

The system, which has been described as a 'virtual' tape measure, is being developed by the London College of Fashion and computer vision experts at the University of Surrey, in partnership with Bodymetrics and digital creative agency Guided.

The 18-month 'Body Shape Recognition for Online Fashion' project has received GBP350,000 (US$558,000) from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Adrian Hilton from the University of Surrey added: "It's unrealistic to expect online clothes shoppers to have the time or inclination to take a series of highly accurate body measurements of themselves. The new system makes it all very easy."