Amazon’s blended-reality mirror shows you wearing virtual clothes in virtual locales
by Alan Boyle
How would that glitzy cocktail dress look on you when you’re on the dance floor at the GeekWire Gala? Now Amazon has a patented technology for that: a blended-reality display that puts your image into a virtual scene, and puts you in a virtual version of the dress.
Echo Look lets you take your picture with the assistance of Amazon’s voice-commanded Alexa AI assistant, and then produces blended-reality photos that show you wearing the clothes you’ve picked out.
The blended-reality display, described in a patent published today, relies on a system of cameras, projectors, displays, mirrors and lights that can add layers of pixels to your moving image on a real-time basis.
“When the user views the mirror, the user sees a reflection from the mirror of illuminated objects in the scene and the transmitted images from the display device through the mirror, the transmitted images being perceived as part of the reflected scene,” the inventors say.
For example, the transmitted image could show a beachside scene, or the dance floor at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. The image would be processed to put you into the scene, and potentially superimpose virtual clothes — say, a swimsuit, or that cocktail dress — onto your real body.
Face-tracking sensors and sophisticated software would manage the display so that you saw a realistic blended picture from any angle.
The effect is basically a glorified, high-tech, high-resolution version of the “Pepper’s Ghost” mirror trick that was used by stage magicians going back to the 19th century (and which more recently figured in the plot for a “Sherlock” TV episode).
It’s not clear how close the blended-reality mirror is to becoming a reality, or if it’ll actually be manufactured as a physical object. Amazon makes a practice of refraining from comment on its patents until they produce products. But last year’s introduction of Echo Look suggests that as far as the Seattle-based online retailer is concerned, blended reality is no mere fantasy.
Update for 11:55 a.m. PT Jan. 2: It’s worth noting that Amazon’s acquisition of New York-based Body Labs, reported last October, plays right into a blended-reality product strategy.
Body Labs’ software uses computer vision to create more accurate 3D avatars for gaming and clothes modeling, among other applications. TechCrunch has estimated the acquisition price in the range of $50 million to $70 million.