18 March 2007

New York Times on interactive mirror in department store

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putting people first
by experientia

Interactive mirror
Very insightful article by Natasha Singer in today’s New York Times on the human implications of a state-of-the-art interactive mirror prototype:

“Tracy Noah is a self-described shopaholic who stops by Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan every day during lunch hour. But last Thursday she came upon something new: a prototype for an interactive mirror stationed among the embroidered cotton dresses and duster pants in the Nanette Lepore department. Displayed in a vintage-looking white wooden frame, the full-length mirror doubled as a three-part high-resolution digital screen.

As Ms. Noah stood in front of the mirror, a camera relayed live video images of her to an Internet site where online participants could view her outfit. When Web viewers responded by sending her comments, their instant messages popped up on the left side of the mirror for Ms. Noah to read. They also selected items for her to try on, causing virtual images of the clothing to appear before her in the middle of the mirror, like life-size holograms. […]

For many women, shopping is a task best achieved in the company of other women. And when friends or mothers are not around, shoppers have become accustomed to snapping and sending photos of Coach handbags and Juicy Couture hoodies with their camera phones and soliciting opinions before they buy.

But the new mirror, introduced to Nanette Lepore by IconNicholson, an interactive design firm in Manhattan, takes the concept of shopping in tandem one step further by streaming real-time video to the Internet and inviting shoppers to actively involve off-site friends to join the process. It brings fashion into the realm of social networking where people already freely share their opinions and lives via MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and Web cams.

But it raises the question of whether the immediacy and tactile experience of shopping together in person can translate to a virtual audience.

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IconNicholson press release
IconNicholson concept overview

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