Bloomingdale’s virtual reality windows let shoppers try on shades without wearing them

[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.

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3 Comments

  1. Bi-Hsuan Chien
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Somehow I feel that I’ve seen this kind of technology a thousand times. Years ago some hair salons offered a program that allowed their customers virtually tried different hair style. They could choose colors, length, and styles. However this feature did go anywhere. Now here is a technology that lets you virtually try on sunglasses. Yes it’s fun and it’s cool, but it’s not something we’ve never seen before. And I doubt its benefits. Even now you can see how these glasses look on your face, you still can’t feel the weight of the glasses. Maybe their next step would be virtual-reality-try-on-the-cloth project. Well, for a person picky like me, I won’t rely on technology to help me pick the apparel.

  2. alison frangicetto
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I like this idea. I do feel like it’s not really anything shocking though. I’d expect something like this to of happened at some point. I would be into the virtual reality window allowing me to see what the glasses looked like on me before actually going to the store and considering buying them. It’s more convienent, less pushy and more of a fun experience. I probably would never be able to afford these particular brands of glasses but I’ve always wanted to see how i’d look in them. Who knows though, maybe one day.

  3. Liudi Wang
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    This is a cool and fun way to make a trial of products. You can try whatever you want without concerning about the attitude of saleswoman. It also make the trial process easier, since you don’t have to put on and off glasses over and over again. Though it is a good way to draw people’s attention, the store can’t expect to sell things rely on it. People cannot feel the texture of the glasses as well as the weight and comfortableness. This virtual window still lacks an ability, like other forms of ads, to persuade to people step in the store and make a purchase.

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