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December 16, 2013

The techy future of clothes shopping

In-app technology puts a personal shopper in your handbag.

By Vinod

A new technology developed in the UK, which takes any photo of an outfit and recommends similar items, is taking the US by a storm. The unique FindSimilar software has been made publicly available ahead of the busy Christmas shopping season.

The software, created by London based Cortexica Vision Systems, uses FindSimilar software to mimic the way the brain processes images and finds similarities. A picture of an item of clothing can be analysed by the software which then delivers similar alternatives.

Search results are based on a combination of pattern, style, colour and overall design. This broadens choice and helps shoppers to find items that are more affordable or simply closer to their personal taste.

Several leading US fashion services and retailers have shown interest in the technology which is being integrated into websites and mobile phone-based apps. Similar services are expected to launch in the UK early in the New Year.

Online fashion search engine ShopStyle has integrated the software into the new version of its free app whilst ‘StyleThief’, which relies entirely on images for search, has also integrated the software.

A shopper could use such apps by simply taking a picture on the camera built in to their smartphone. A quick snap of a shop window mannequin, a magazine picture of an item of clothing, someone in the street or a catwalk model is all that is needed to look for similar items which are then presented for potential in-app purchase.

Visual recognition specialists Cortexica, based in London, have developed the software. The Cortexica software replicates the way that the eye and the brain work together to recognize patterns. This process, which has evolved over millions of years of evolution, is now little more than a smartphone camera click away. Half a million items of clothing, with full stockist details for potential purchasers, already sit on virtual clothes rails on Cortexica’s servers.

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Iain McCready, CEO of Cortexica, said: "Our benchmark for this software was to develop something intelligent and discerning enough to satisfy the Miranda Priestlys of the World. We’re delighted that our technology has been so well received. For a retailer, having an app powered by our software is a bit like putting your own shop assistant into a competitor’s store."

He added: "We all recognise that deep feeling of frustration after hunting for an item of clothing that we’ve seen or admired or the experience of finding something and wishing we could find a better or sometimes more affordable alternative. Our software is the answer to these perennial problems."

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