Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Virtual Mirrors & The Retail Opportunity

Ben Delaney Ben Delaney Analysis, Augmented Reality, Business Transformation

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - Virtual Mirrors & The Retail Opportunity

The “Virtual Mirror” is an application for augmented reality which is gradually entering the mainstream. Essentially, this refers to a monitor, typically mounted in portrait orientation, with a video camera attached to it. The monitor acts as a virtual mirror by processing the camera image of whoever is standing in front of it and reversing it so that it functions as a mirror, as opposed to a TV image.

The virtual mirror is well accepted in the retail industry, especially among fashion and cosmetics retailers. Here, it enables the customer to stand in front of the mirror and choose from a variety of clothes which the customer appears to be wearing. This technology is being used with great success by a number of retailers including Uniqlo, Vans, and Timberland. This tech has also been integrated into online shopping experiences. In some systems, customers can upload a photo of themselves and then use AR technology to dress in the clothing that the retailer is offering. In both the online and offline retail use of virtual mirrors, there are reports of improved customer experience and sales.

One innovative use of virtual mirror technology comes from ModiFace, which was recently purchased by L’Oreal. The platform-agnostic ModiFace application enables a customer at home or in a store, using a tablet as a virtual mirror, to see what makeup will look like on their face. The app analyzes skin color, face shape and the outlines of the eyes and lips, and offers suggestions for makeup based on that analysis. When the customer chooses various tones of lipstick, eyeshadow, rouge or foundation, she sees the makeup on her face, and can even move around and see it from different angles.

ModiFace’s patented AR SDK features scientifically validated skin assessment and simulation, and provides photo-realistic makeup and hair color and style simulation with dynamic lighting adaption, and photo-realism. In has been adopted by more than 70 leading global beauty brands. ModiFace claims is it the most widely used AR technology in the beauty industry.

Other virtual mirror apps allow customers to see glasses on their face, or try on clothes. Some of these apps are web-based, others are intended for use in brick-and-mortar spaces.

The OWIZ app creates a virtual mirror intended to facilitate eyeglass selection. It is intended for use by optometrists and opticians, and enables them to offer a virtual inventory of frames that they do not have physically in stock. It is available in multiple languages and includes social sharing so that customers can ask their friends’ opinions of the frames they are considering. The company has matured its offering over time, with more than 4000 systems in use and an inventory of more than 50,000 eyeglass frames available.

The British creative agency Holition has provided “Magic Mirror” technology for Uniqlo, which has deployed the system in San Francisco and  Tokyo. Uniqlo unveiled 'the virtual dressing room' using patent-pending technology from Holition. Its developers working in partnership with Dai Nippon Printing Company created a retail AR experience that allows shoppers to try on a variety of Uniqlo jackets. Trying on clothing in front of the Magic Mirror prompts a touchscreen that allows the customer to try on available colors. The Mirrors are also connected to social media, allowing instantaneous sharing from the store. Holotion has created a similar experience for Vans.

Virtual mirrors also have medical applications. They are being used to help stroke patients regain control of their bodies, and to help amputees deal with phantom limb issues. Applications are in testing now for these uses.

We can also imagine virtual mirror technology being used in psychotherapy for people with eating and body image issues. Using a virtual mirror, a person’s “reflection” could be slimmed or fattened to show them the difference between their perceived look, and their actual appearance. With body image and eating disorders a significant source of anxiety in the Western world, using virtual mirrors combined with traditional psychotherapy could turn into a real asset for people living with various forms of dysmorphia. An early application of this type was demonstrated by the Italian psychiatrist, Giuseppe Riva in the mid-1990s.

Another experimental application which could have a great commercial value is pre-op visualization for plastic surgery candidates. Illusio Imaging offers a system that allows plastic surgery patients to previsualize breast reshaping. Available since 2016, this software provides 3D images of the body and allows the patient to see various options, which can be adjusted using a simple slider. Illusio reports that 97% of patients prefer this system [over non-visualization systems] for a preliminary consultation.

Crisalix  is another company offering AR to plastic surgeons. Their system offers support for not only breast augmentation, but also body contouring and cosmetic facial surgery. Uniquely, Crisalix markets direct to consumers, and for less than $100 will accept photos of the candidate’s face or body, and allow them to experiment with various procedures and degrees of change online. The patient is then referred to a surgeon to actually perform the procedures.

These examples are just the tip of what Greenlight Insights expects to be a growth market. We expect to see virtual mirrors as a major application of AR technology, and believe this market segment has great upside potential. For more insights on fully interactive, distributed, collaborative, large-scale, and visually rich virtual 3D environments, get the new 2018 Global Visual Display Market Report.