Business

Ph.Ds apply advanced geometry, 3D simulation to improving e-commerce (exclusive)

Buying clothes online can be a frustrating and difficult process, and it could take nothing short of technology built on computational geometry and virtual reality to improve it.

PhiSix launched its 3D simulation solution today that allows people to virtually try-on clothing before hitting “buy.”

Founders Jon Su and Jatin Chhugani earned Ph.Ds in computer science from Stanford and Johns Hopkins, respectively. Both men felt the pain of shopping online and rather than just dealing with uncertainty and returns (like most of us), they decided to leverage their expertise to digitalize one of the most important steps of shopping

“Despite all of the advancements we have seen in the past 10 years, we are really at the very beginning of apparel e-commerce,” said founder Jon Su to VentureBeat. “It would be great if we could purchase our clothes online without any doubts, but we really can’t at this point because it is too hard to find the right fit. Our goal with PhiSix is to change this.”

The proprietary technology digitizes articles of clothing from a two-dimensional photograph. Users provide basic information about their bodies and measurements and the engine will drape the 3D garment on an avatar using a physics-based simulation. From there, consumers can look at a 360 degree view, watch the clothing on a simulated catwalk, and check out a virtual fitting room. E-commerce retailers can integrate the technology into their sites with one line of code in an effort to improve conversion rates, drive sales, and cut down on returns.

Su’s background is in physics-based animation and cloth simulation, and Chhugani’s expertise is in interactive computer graphics, virtual reality, computational geometry, and high-performance computation. Together, they have developed advanced technology that maintains high visual quality, as well as customization, and scaleability. Competitors include Fites.me, True Fit, Clothes Horse, Metail, and Styku, but Su said PhiSix is better than its rivals because it can digitize and simulate garments 10 times more rapidly at prices three to five times lower than its competitors.

While e-commerce is growing, it is still dwarfed by brick-and-mortar retail, and abandoned online shopping carts are common. Part of this is due to consumer uncertainty about fit and hesitancy to buy something before trying it on. PhiSix seeks to bridge this gap between the online and offline world by creating a virtual fitting room experience. However, as with many fashion/apparel startups, success doesn’t only hedge on technology. It also requires understanding the personal and often illogical process of selecting and sampling clothing.

No matter how advanced the engine or how realistic the avatars, it may take more than 3D modeling to encourage someone to buy a pair of skinny jeans online.

During initial testing, PhiSix has digitized over 10,000 garments and over 6,000 user avatars have been created. The company is working with clients like the Tie Society and Le Tote as well as “large international e-commerce retailers,” and the tech is being used at “several major Hollywood studios.” PhiSix was founded in 2012 and the six employees are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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