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Oak Labs' interactive fitting room feels like the future

Though shopping is a major part of digital life, buying clothes online is still a somewhat fraught experience. Trying clothes on at the store is still an integral part of the shopping experience, because there's no telling just how well one size will fit. Figuring that out happens in the fitting room, and the entire ordeal of walking in, trying something on, and finding a satisfactory outfit is still somewhat resistant to change. New York-based startup Oak Labs is trying to change that with an interactive fitting room that aims to improve on the entire process. It's not a new idea, but it may do the trick.

A simple, elegant solution

Oak is partnering with the Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store in New York City to unveil its new smart fitting room. It's a simple, yet elegant solution that, according to Oak CEO Healey Cypher, both improves on the customer experience while also leveraging data and putting it in the hands of the retailer to make the purchase as seamless as possible. "Everything we build has to be human," he said, stressing how the fitting room is meant to be inviting and engaging.

Oak Labs mirror

It works like this. Walking into the Ralph Lauren fitting room for a demo, the room immediately responded to our presence by altering the lights. (I like a bright room, but club lighting was pleasant enough.) An RFID antenna in the mirror immediately picked up the dresses we brought in, and displayed them side-by-side on the mirror's touch display. By interacting with the mirror, we could choose different sizes and colors, and even receive style recommendations. Despite the mirror being, for all intents and purposes, a prototype, everything felt very smooth and responsive — basically ready for me to make a purchase then and there.

The idea behind all this is to ensure people are satisfied enough to make a purchase instead of abandoning their selections. According to Cypher, the chance someone will walk away without buying anything jumps 65 percent if they can't find the item they want in the right size and color.

Prada tried a similar concept in 2001

Of course, this isn't the first time something like this has been attempted. In 2001, Prada also attempted to launch a dressing room of the future with its "epicentre" store in New York's SoHo neighborhood, also using touchscreens and RFID scanners. However, because the technology was far from easy to use, the experiment was deemed a failure. Oak at least has the distinction of having state-of-the-art tech underpinning its own effort.