Augmented Reality (AR) is probably the most hyped vertical compared to Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality. The reason is that it seems to be the most promising short-term technology that can actually be adopted by the masses.
Let's look at how you can take advantage of AR apps to reach hundreds of millions of customers and enhance their user journeys that connect Physical and Virtual Fashion experiences, known as Phygital Fashion. Additionally, we want to go deeper into the production and technology that everyone is required to understand before and while producing AR fashion.
Today the most common way to experience AR fashion is through Social Media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok using just your phone. However, there are also 3rd party platforms that can help you build your own custom AR experience such as Lightship from Niantic. Additionally, WebAR platforms are now enabling users to experience AR on mobile phones without even installing any app.
The app recognizes some specified object in the picture such as a Logo, QR code, text, or anything else that you select, and then shows an image, video, or 3D object
Above is an example where one of the most innovative Virtual Fashion companies RTFKT & Nike has recently released its AR hoodie and now recently we replicated that for one of our clients and are offering it to anyone through Virtuall.
Another very popular way of using AR for fashion is to fit the fashion item directly on the person displayed in the camera. This is more advanced functionality and requires platform support for that. The quality highly depends on where you want your AR filter to be displayed. In this way, brands can showcase their collections in a cool way targeting specific audiences.
You can also place objects (images, videos, or 3D) into the physical world and allow customers to interact with them. One of the most interesting examples is Virtual Showrooms where you can allow customers to preview and interact with fashion collections.
Now let's talk about how actually to produce these experiences. Our objective at Virtuall is to add virtual components to existing physical fashion collections fast and cost-effectively, starting with the idea to scale across various 3D destinations and hundreds of items. So we are going to look at AR from that angle.
Although you can place images and videos using AR, the most effective way of displaying fashion items is 3D. So for any of the experiences mentioned above one should start with actually creating a 3D virtual clone of an existing fashion item and then if you want to add extra spice to it, you need to animate it. To create a 3D AR model artists need to go through 4 steps:
So going from just pictures to 3D models is actually an artistic process that requires artists' interpretation and understanding of what the brand actually is looking for. This is especially true when you need to create for a specific application (Snapchat, Instagram, Shopify, Roblox, ..). In these scenarios, it's not enough to "just create a perfect replica" because each virtual environment is forced to comply with its technical limitations and requirements that inevitably reduces quality, change the form, shape, materials, etc. The software typically used during this step is Marvelous Designer, Blender, Maya, Zbrush, and Adobe Substance Painter.
Once we have a 3D model that we like, we now need to adapt the model for a specific environment. This step includes reducing the number of polygons, resizing and removing textures and materials, fitting the item on top of the new Avatar, and many other things. This is crucial because users are expecting to load the model quickly and in the AR case interact with them in real-time not to speak about fit on the body and similar use cases.
To bring more immersive experiences to the users one might want to animate the 3D fashion item. Take a look at how we animated wings for one of our customers using Blender.
This step requires a custom approach for every single app (environment) as it depends on how the app and user want to use the model. Here's the list of the biggest apps and their AR development environments that you can bring Fashion AR experiences to:
As you can see for every single app/environment you would need to perform a separate development step to adapt the 3D model differently. To make it even more complex, every environment comes with technical limitations and differences, the same feature can be better on one than others. The comparison would require its own blog post but here's a short comparison between the major AR Apps.
There are many different use-cases, production steps, and environments to actually get to the results in just AR, not to talk about other 3D use-cases such as E-commerce 3D placement, Virtual Worlds, Games, Metaverse, Virtual Try-On, etc. And typically brands would like to reach the users within multiple channels, however, because of the involved complexities they are often just testing out one with only a few items or as one of their PR stunts.
We at Virtuall have removed all these complexities so that brands can only focus on their customers and fashion rather than the production and scaling of 3D models.