For anyone who loathes trying on clothes, there are no good options. The fitting room can seem like a torture chamber—harsh lighting, the walk past other customers to the three-way mirror. Online, you can avoid the horror of asking the sales person to bring you a bigger size, but you may end up returning four out of five items because nothing fits properly.
Farhad Manjoo recently wrote in Slate that Amazon’s move to same-day shipping may doom physical retailers. But another technology could hasten the demise of clothing stores in particular: body scanners, like the one I saw recently in Seoul’s T.um Museum, which is dedicated to futuristic technology. Pairing customized avatars with technology similar to that in some airport security scanners, the machine could make the process of trying on clothes obsolete.
The Me-Ality machine, made by a North American company called Unique Solutions and modified in Korea, runs radio waves over a fully clothed person who is scanned standing up. The radio waves send and receive power signals that reflect off the water molecules in the skin, picking up more than 200,000 points of measurement. From these, the machine creates a 3-D image, then extracts more than 100 measurements, according to Bob Kutnick, the company’s chief technology officer—not just the circumference of your waist but the gradation from your knee to your ankle, for example.
Currently found in common areas of about 70 malls in the United States, the Me-Ality is free for shoppers to use. After a 10-second scan, software compares the individual’s measurements to those provided by partner manufacturers and then recommends items that are guaranteed to fit: Old Navy’s Sweetheart style jeans in a size 10, say. The clothes it recommends are all (of course) available in shops at the mall, so customers can stroll in and pick them up, or head home and order online.