Thinking Tech

3-D to make window shopping more interactive

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New display technology may modernize the good old-fashioned retail shopping experience, making it more interactive.

For those of us who spend a bulk of our day in staring at a computer screen, good old-fashioned retail shopping can be a refreshing change of pace. But don't expect it to stay that way for long as retailers look to 3-D technology to make the shopping experience more interactive.

Just last week at the annual National Retail Federation show, Intel showcased one of the more intriguing potential uses of display technology with a two-story 2,400 square-foot concept store known as the "Connected Store," which featured the Adidas AdiVerse Virtual Footwear Wall. Shoppers can interact with the wall-sized 3-D display to browse, zoom-in and get specs on a virtual assortment of shoes with a few simple hand gestures.

(To learn more about Intel's "Connected Store" concept, check out Associate Editor Andrew Nusca's report here.)

Here's a video by Fast Company demonstrating the AdiVerse wall. Oddly enough, the display kind of resembles a Las Vegas slot machine. Don't you think?

Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, a part of the Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) in Berlin, Germany are looking to take digital display and signage technology a step further by allowing window shoppers to use gestures to beam products like outfits and accessories that are kept behind shop windows onto a video display -- without ever having to touch the screen.

Dubbed "interactive shop window," the display system lets potential buyers zoom in to get an up-close glimpse of a product, for instance a pair of jeans, along with other relevant information like price, brand name, material and available sizes.

"Interactive shopping has been standard operating procedure in the web for a long time, said Paul Chojecki, a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications. "We're putting this technology into pedestrian passageways and shopping centers with the entire unit behind the window."

The display system works by having four strategically positioned 3-D cameras continually record the positions of the hands, faces and eyes of people who pass by the storefront. Image-processing software crunches the coordinates and calls up the chosen product so customers can get a more detailed assessment and perhaps purchase it, even if the store is closed.

Business owners who might opt for the display system can choose any monitor size and the interactive shop window works with most display formats, including plasma, LED, LCD, projection or re-projection screens. The interactive shop window also helps owners get an idea of what customers might want to purchase based on information the system had gathered about the people who passed by.

Researchers will give a demonstration of the 3-D recording system prototype at the upcoming CeBit Fair held in Hannover, Germany from March 1 to March 5.

But if you can't make the trip, here's a demo of a similar technology developed for the storefronts of European mobile phone service provider Orange.

Photo: Fraunhofer HHI

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure