Fashion, Tech, Innovation: Using Avatars to Design Video Garment Imagery

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos or images on its surface, we’ve looked at some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

Last time we looked at how a video playback garment might be actually work. Now let’s wrap this up by talking a little about how designers would go about actually designing images and video that would play on the garment’s surface.

As we mentioned before, the human body is a solid 3-D object that we are trying to wrap a planar (flat) sheet around.  This is no different from our fashion classes, where we are given a few yards of muslin and told to drape a mannequin (flat, almost 2-D textile sheet, 3D mannequin object).  In moving from designing physical fashion to designing flat images to play on the video garment, we are doing much the same thing, except we are doing all of our draping on the image, not with the cloth.  This requires a slight change in how we go about draping, since what we will actually be draping on is the base video garment, and what we will be draping with are 2-d images.

And this is where the avatar comes in, since the process of draping a digital image onto a solid body requires a mannequin, in this case, an avatar.  At its simplest level, an avatar is nothing more than a digital representation of a human body.  We already know how to go about putting clothing onto human bodies, or at least we should have learned that at design school.

Taking our knowledge about draping onto the human body a step further, we simply need to substitute our expertise with Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator rather than pins, needles and scissors to drape the avatar not with textile, but with imagery.

Of course, like any new skill, it takes time and experience to get video garment images right, but a really nice aspect of designing for video garments is that the designer can create as many styles as she wishes, and she can ‘show off’ her design concepts using something like Black Dress Technology’s Virtual Runway™ service.  Unlike draping with textiles, draping pixels on an avatar mannequin does not require the production of costly physical samples.  You just design, upload it, watch the new style move on Virtual Runway, and then when the concept is approved, upload the design onto the base garment for approval.

Once the design is approved, it can be made available for licensing on any of a number of web sites or even via mobile apps! Think about it – you can really share your fashion sense with your besties simply by sending them a link.  Some designers may decide to open source their ‘basic’ video garment images and encourage their followers to customize their own designs.

Of course, it will be an interesting question whether or not the maker of such a video garment will try to use a proprietary file format instead of standard ones like jpg or png files.  Also, will the video garment be an open format, or closed format like the Kindle e-book reader? Amazon would no doubt love to get in the fashion game (everyone seems to want to be there, these days), and it would be entirely possible for them to come up with some version of a proprietary video garment, where they could sell the garment imagery just like they do e-books.

We would anticipate that the early video garments wouldn’t have the data or battery capacity to actually play video, but as the base technology improved and progressed, it would not be out of the question at all to eventually truly have video garments that play moving images over the surface. Imagine the possibilities: a formal gown that plays back images of moving sunlight and shadow dapple over a forest floor, or waves crashing eternally downward to froth and foam (virtually) at the wearer’s feet.   Think of the fun accessories designers could have developing product to complement such designs! Perhaps small scent pomanders contained in earrings or brooches, or tiny sound transistors with short loops of water waves or bird sound for a completely immersive experience, allowing the wearer to carry their own little environment with them.

The possibilities are endless.  All we need is for the materials sciences folks and the technology folks to catch up and give us the technology to do this.  Then we fashionable folk can take it from there.

Avatars in the Apparel Industry

Research Institute AAFA Title Slide Avatar Talk

Fashion Research Institute’s CEO Shenlei Winkler spoke yesterday at the fall meeting of the American Apparel and Footwear Association’s Information System Committee  about the use of avatars in the apparel industry.

Some of the things we touched on were what an avatar actually is, which for the purposes of our talk is any digital representation or a persona of a physical world person.  This includes everything from static 2-dimensional images to fully 3D models.

We discussed how the industry is currently using avatars, as ‘talking heads’  on web sites for e-commerce or customer service purposes.  We also talked about the use of static 3-D models for purposes of showcasing apparel, also used on retail web sites.

We covered the use of avatars for product design in an offline, non-collaborative setting as well as the use of avatars for fitting, size standardization, nonstandard and plus-sized apparel, and even weight loss.

Then we discussed the coming evolution with our new service Virtual Runway™, with the use of fully 3-D, AI-enabled avatar models to showcase designs and to quickly iterate upon design concepts with a geographically dispersed audience in a collaborative, immersive environment.  We also discussed the use of the patent-pending Black Dress Design Studio for virtual world-based product design and development, allowing granular business information data collection for executive use.

Finally, we closed with some coming previews of the future of avatars in the apparel industry, for marketing, sales, and for product design and development. The talk was well-received and elicited commentary about the future of teh industry.

Applications Open for Summer 2010 Internship Program

Once again the Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce 5 avatar apparel design internships to be conducted wholly in the immersive workspaces it maintains in OpenSim and Second Life.

The focus of the internship is to develop skills for virtual goods development, specifically apparel with a lesser focus on accessories and footwear.  The intent of the internship is to assist interns to develop private design practices where they can create and sell their virtual goods. Interns are provided with classroom space and creation space in FRI’s OpenSim regions, and store front space on the heavily trafficked Shengri La regions in Second Life.  Interns are taught using the patent-pending design methodology created by Fashion Research Institute, which is applicable to both avatar apparel and to their work developing physical apparel.

This course follows a collection-oriented design sequence, in which the class is expected to develop a mood board, color story, and concept boards for 6 outfits which will be developed for inclusion in a virtual fashion show, which will be designed as a group project. The course includes class work and home work and follows an aggressive schedule successfully piloted with real life fashion design students.  Students have full creation privileges in the online classroom as well as an assigned space for use for the duration of the class.  Students receive virtual tool kit resources as part of their internship.

All texture work is expected to be accomplished off line as part of the homework assignments.  Extensive resources and documentation are provided in the classroom, and students have full access to the classroom during their course.  All work is graded and receives feedback from the instructor. Students will complete 3 outfits, develop an initial label concept, and complete an initial showroom/store design. They will show their work on a runway at the final class, using their avatars as models.

Students must provide their own computer, internet connection, scanner, and image editing program(s) as well as have Second Life and Skype accounts.

Recommended text book: Designing Dreams, Shenlei E. Winkler, available on Amazon.com

At the end of their internships, Interns’ work will be presented in a virtual fashion runway show, with avatar models which the interns will style from hair to shoes.  All interns will complete their internship with Fashion Research Institute with a completed collection of avatar apparel including concept boards to product ads, which may be added to their portfolio. A final presentation of their work will be created.  Our Summer 2009  interns’ runway show can be viewed here.

Requirements:

Interns must provide their own Internet access and computer hardware and software sufficient to allow them access to the Institute’s classroom and facilities in the immersive OpenSim and Second Life regions of Shengri La.  Interns must have experience with and access to Photoshop (not provided). Interns must have a Second Life avatar account (available free), and are solely responsible for any fees related to their Second Life account.  Interns must also have a Skype account (free) with access to it during training periods.

Interns who successfully complete the 12-week long program will receive a certificate of completion and may be eligible for admission into the Fashion Research Institute incubation program.

Applicants may be currently enrolled in design school or recent graduates. Some design experience and background is required; these internships are not suitable for freshmen.

To apply, send your resume with 1-2 fashion images you have sketched or illustrated along with contact information to admin @ fashionresearchinstitute.com.

A New Look for Shengri La OpenSim

The very first thing that our visitors to our corporate OpenSim islands want to do is customize their avatar, if for no other reason than to get rid of default Ruth.  That can turn out to burn the clock, which is costly when we are actually trying to get substantive work accomplished.  To help reduce the delay, we have created a pair of new default avatars, Jane and John. 

Jane and John are both corporate avatars, with a gravitas appropriate to the work we are doing in our OpenSim islands.  Jane is a 40-something exec in a jacket and dress with very nice heels and an updo; John is a 40-something exec in a suit with prim captoe shoes and a corporate hair cut.  Both are appropriately dressed for a business meeting, and if visitors to Shengri La OpenSim feel a need to further embellish, they can find a range of corporate clothing and a change of hair styles already in their inventory.

Shengri La OpenSim female default avatar Jane

Shengri La OpenSim female default avatar Jane

Shengri La OpenSim default female avatar Jane

Shengri La OpenSim default female avatar Jane

Shengri La OpenSim default male avatar John

Shengri La OpenSim default male avatar John

Shengri La OpenSim default male avatar John

Shengri La OpenSim default male avatar John

Men’s Avatar Makeover Kits in Second Life™ Shengri La

Ruth to Ruthless Men's avatar makeover kit

Ruth to Ruthless Men

The Fashion Research Institute is pleased to present a new avatar makeover kit for men in the Shengri La Welcome Area.  The kit contains shapes, skins, eyes, hair, an male avatar overrider, casual, formal and corporate clothing, shoes and boots and watches in silver and gold.

The makeover kit is provided free – buy the kit for $0L.  Contents do not transfer. Three hair styles in six shades and three skin tones are included in the kit, and some components are boxed. 

The full line of women’s makeover kits are also available in the Shengri La Welcome Area.  Visit Shengri La to move past your new resident look.   Ruth to Ruthless™, only in Shengri La.

Beautiful People….

Collaborators (and others) take note: the Fashion Research Institute has made available new resident avatar kits in the welcome area of our corporate sim complex in Second Life tm Shengri La. The Departure Ruth to Ruthless kits are currently only available for femme avatars, and include hair, a choice of shapes, a choice of skins, jewelry, shoes, and several outfits as well as a basic avatar overrider set.   Choice from five skins; five shapes; four hair colors.  Included is jewelry, several outfits per set, matching shoes, and various and sundry accessories.  Each makeover kit is available for a mere $0L.  Yes, free. 

Men’s kits to follow.  Women’s avatar makeover kits available by following this SLurl.   While you’re there, make sure you check out our resident (and visiting) artists’ exhibits.