Between 30 and 40 per cent of all clothing bought online is returned, mainly due to sizing.
A computer scientist at the University of Saskatchewan is hoping to put a dent in the massive number of online clothing purchases returned each year.
Raymond Spiteri heads up a team working on giving shoppers a better tool to figure out if the clothes they click on will fit them properly, using a digital avatar combined with simulation of the physics of a particular piece of clothing.
The result is what Spiteri calls a “comfort map.” Similar to a heat map, the display would show where a user could expect a piece of clothing to fit tightest.
Spiteri is working in collaboration with Mitacs, a non-profit that helps businesses solve problems with the help of academic researchers. According to a Mitacs media release, some 30 to 40 per cent of online clothing purchases are returned each year, mostly due to sizing.
“I would hope that we’d be able to cut that number something like in half,” Spiteri said, adding that even before the pandemic caused a boom in online purchases, there was always a certain number of people who didn’t feel comfortable trying on clothes in person.
“I think a lot of people order two and three of the same kind of thing because they hope that one of them will work, and knowing the other two will not,” he said
Spiteri said he’d like to see the technology advance to a place where most people feel confident just ordering one garment at a time.
Creating the avatars is the easy part, requiring a user to submit some measurements and a few photos of themselves in tight-fitted clothes. The tough part is getting all the physics right when simulating fabric.
“The challenges are what we call the ‘collision detection’ — so it’s keeping the t-shirt outside of the avatar, if you will. That can be tricky in places like underneath the arms and around the shoulders. And it’s also with folding of the cloth on itself,” he said.
A basic prototype simulating a cotton t-shirt is expected to be complete within about three months.
In the meantime, Spiteri will take home an award from Mitacs recognizing exceptional leadership over more than 20 years of collaboration, including 16 different research projects.
“It’s a brilliant feeling,” Spiteri said of the award. “I can’t think of many feelings that are better than, you know, when your community recognizes the value of your work.”
U of S researchers study flow of human pharmaceuticals into South Saskatchewan River
Sask. Polytechnic computer experts assist program for high school students
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.