Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute are redesigning window shopping

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin have developed a product which will change the way we window shop. They have created a system that can monitor and detect customer’s movements to display products on screen from behind shop windows. 

Shoppers can point at screens from outside the store to view selected items. If customers would like to examine a product in detail, for example a leather jacket or a pair of shoes, the zoom function can be used. Products can also be viewed in various colours, sizes and styles and the screens can be used even after the shop is closed.

Paul Chojecki from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications HHI answered some of our questions about their research, latest developments and the challenges they faced in developing the software.

WM: Have many shops shown an interest in window shopping technology and has it already been implemented in any stores?

Paul: At the trade shows and events we go to there’s been a very keen interest in the solution. But the market – and especially the German market – is still a bit reluctant to take the plunge.

Interactive shop window at Deutsche Bank Q110

Even so, we have a few interested parties in the EU. And we’ve installed the ISW, the interactive shop window, in the Deutsche Bank Q110 in Berlin and that’s been a great success.

WM: If retailers wanted to use the screens and trackers in stores, how much would it cost?

Paul: What we’ve found is that most of our customers want an adapted version or advanced development of the system. So its costs depend on the costs of adaptation and further development. On the other hand, it’s also the kind of hardware used that drives the costs. But customers themselves can choose which size and type of display and projector they want. On top of this, they also need a PC and a camera which put together come in at under 1,000 euro.

Interactive window shopping ©Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications

WM: You say the technology responds to ‘meaningful hand-gestures’. What happens if too many people point at the screen at one time?

Paul: Our algorithms recognize a number of people standing in front of the shop window and can cut out the rest to allow only person control of handling. So as long as one person is interacting with the shop window, nobody else can take over control.

Motion sensors

And when the first person lowers their hand, somebody else standing in front of the window can take over. Our recognition software is extremely flexible and can be adapted to meet a broad variety of conditions and user scenarios.

WM: If the screens can detect and measure the ‚3D position of parts of a user’s body‘ does this mean the mannequin that appears on screen could emulate the user’s body size and shape?

Paul: Sure, that’s possible, but it’s not implemented in our software since it’s something that our customers have never asked for. But basically, it would be feasible. Even so, at the moment precise measurement is limited by the shop window and the camera technology. This is a solution that would be better suited to a virtual changing room on the inside of the store.

Interactive window shopping
©Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications

WM: Shop windows and reflective surfaces were a real problem for the technology. How was this resolved?

Paul: Our recognition and tracking software uses a variety of filters to help us patch up various camera problems or eliminate them. Furthermore, the camera set-up and perspective are important factors in solving many problems caused by reflections. We’ve gained quite a bit of know-how in this field over the years and now able to offer the best possible solutions for it.

WM: How have users responded to the prototype?

Paul: Users think the prototypes are fantastic and have a great deal of fun with them. And many women in particular find the chance to do 24/7 shopping and get more in-depth info about the products on display very exciting. Generally speaking, our solution offers a host of benefits for the Point of Sale (POS) that consumers, potential customers, have missed so far and appreciate.

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