[From The New York Daily News, where the story includes a 1:26 minute video]
[Image: Susan Watts/New York Daily News]
Bloomingdale’s virtual reality windows let shoppers try on shades without wearing them
System gives a screen test on how you’ll look with the latest designer eyewear
By Gina Salamone / New York Daily News
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Window shopping is taking on a new meaning at Bloomingdale’s.
As they get ready for summer, busy New Yorkers now can try on sunglasses without stepping inside the store.
Virtual-reality technology projects designer shades onto shoppers who simply stand in front of the Lexington Ave. windows.
“That’s really cool and fun,” says Julia Snowden, a 26-year-old singer from Long Island. “It’s a little tricky at first, and a little weird with people walking by, but it’s neat.”
Snowden tried out the technology in the Marc Jacobs window during a test run before Thursday’s launch.
A cabbie caught at a red light looked on, laughing.
“That’s pretty good actually,” he shouted out the window.
There are six interactive windows in place through May 7, each showing four women’s frames by a different designer. Other brands include Gucci, Fendi, Miu Miu, Prada and Roberto Cavalli.
“This gives customers the opportunity to try on different style frames,” says John Klimkowski, Bloomingdale’s operating vice president and creative director of visual and merchandising presentation. “It gives them a chance to play around to see which ones fit their faces better. They can compare each of the designers’ styles.”
The “Virtual Style Bar” windows work by aligning your eyes with ovals on the glass. Once you’re in the right place, it takes a few seconds for the sunglasses to appear on your face on a 42-inch HD flat screen.
Users can try on all four pairs in each window by tapping different icons on the screen.
“We are utilizing LCD screens that identify where your eyes are when you look into the screen,” Klimkowski says.
“The technology actually allows the customer to turn their head and see how the sunglasses look on the side of their face,” he adds. “So they could see the arm and how that rests.”
Technicians were working out the kinks during Wednesday’s test run. At the time, the windows were only set up to work on people 5-feet-4 and taller.
“I’m 5-feet-31/2,” said one woman who had an unsuccessful attempt. “Give me a break!” The store vowed to adjust the height limitations by Thursday.
“There’s always a challenge when we’re using technology in the windows because of the amount of traffic that goes by,” says Klimkowski. “This was extremely difficult because we had to get the technology so tight that the camera wouldn’t lose contact with your face as other people passed.”
It worked for most of the women trying it out.
“It’s interactive and fun,” says Judy Rivkin, a nonprofit executive from the upper West Side.
“It’s just a game and then you don’t have the pressure of a saleswoman saying, ‘You have to get it,’ ” she adds. “It’s good here because you don’t know the price. You can just think about what looks good and not find out that it costs $500.”
The shades range in price from $250-$450.
Chris Glady, a 48-year-old doctor from the upper West Side, found the windows a great idea.
“I loved all the glasses, actually,” she says. “It was really neat to be able to see them from different angles. That was really important.”
Bijou Abiola, a 27-year-old merchant from Long Island City, liked being able to see how different shapes fit her face.
“You always think one’s going to look better, but then I thought the aviator was really nice,” she says. “It made me realize that I shouldn’t get the Ray-Ban-looking ones. It feels real, like you’re trying them on without actually having to.”
Shoppers who like what they see can tap the screen to print out a picture of themselves in the shades.
The prints come out in the Sunglass Style Bar on the main floor of Bloomingdale’s. There, a stylist can further guide customers on which frames best match the face and hair, or direct them to their chosen pair.