A sneak peek at future fashion: 3D scanning, avatars for Filipino consumers

By Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

 A sneak peek at future fashion: 3D scanning, avatars for Filipino consumers

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Jeans that are too long or blouses that are too loose at the top? These are just some of the problems that Filipinos encounter when buying clothes from different brands.

“Our measurements are basically derived from foreign measurements,” Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) director Celia Elumba told ABS-CBN on Wednesday.

“But their (Western people) proportion, their physique, the way their body is configured is different from how our physique has been configured.”

Elumba and other PTRI officials were at the World Trade Center on Wednesday for the National Science and Technology Week event.

There, they unveiled their 3D scanning system, which allows people to get exact measurements of their body.

 A sneak peek at future fashion: 3D scanning, avatars for Filipino consumers

“We call it the 'Perfect Fit',” Elumba said. “It takes your measurements electronically. There is no manual measurement that is involved. That means there is more precision because it is looking at so many cameras, at so many data points and it is triangulating the body measurements.”

Elumba said their ultimate goal is to create a national sizing system that will help local designers and businesses to come out with clothes that are a “perfect fit” for Filipinos.

At the PTRI booth, onlookers are invited to input their data on a tablet, sometimes including how much exercise they get. They are then ushered into the dressing rooms where they can change into a sleeveless top and skin-tight shorts.

The scanning room is a life-sized lightbox fitted with scanners on all 4 corners. Once inside, the client is prompted by a voice to make mannequin-like poses for the 3D scanners.

At one point, you feel like a superhero as the voice asks you to make a post reminiscent of Wonder Woman. And for some reason, the Star Wars theme music plays as the scanners swoosh downwards to capture your measurements.

 A sneak peek at future fashion: 3D scanning, avatars for Filipino consumers

In less than a minute, the PTRI staff are able to show you a rough rendering of your avatar on the screen outside.

You can then choose a clothing style and a fabric from their look book, which they will incorporate in the final version of your avatar. Since it takes quite some time to do this, they promise to e-mail the final image at a later date.

“I actually felt like a celebrity posing for the red carpet when the scanning booth got all those lights on,” said project officer Jen Flores who was among the first to try Perfect Fit. “It was a fun experience.”

“It was weird since the room was so empty and white,” said 18-year-old Rafael De Jesus, a college student who tried out Perfect Fit while waiting for friends. He said it would help to have screens inside to show the images produced from the scan as it happened.

But for fashion designer Jean Dee, who works with national fabrics - like those woven by indigenous tribes, Perfect Fit - which is still in its development stage - will become an essential tool for easier and more efficient prototyping.

“Traditionally in dressmaking, you have a tape measure that you wrap around the body but that is not able to capture the nuances of shape,” she explained.

Dee said using Perfect Fit would allow designers like her to create a simulation of their design without the need to physically measure their client. Follow-up fittings can also be avoided.

“We’re still waiting for the software, which allows for the development of your sketch,” she said, explaining how it could turn their hand drawn sketches into realistic simulations. “As you modify the patterns you can see what it will look like on the person who will wear it.”

She said it will be more cost-efficient for them since they can just scan the fabric and see how it looks on a person. “You can create multiple variations in a few minutes. There is a term called rapid prototyping,” Dee said.

Dee said while a similar technology is already being used in more developed countries and by large-scale retailers, the PTRI’s Perfect Fit will benefit small-scale designers and businesses.

“This is a way to test your creativity, to test your ability to produce, render lots of design ideas,” she added.

Dee explained that it is difficult for her to produce a lot of prototypes because the fabrics she uses are handmade and are mostly experimental.

“Having this technology will help me visualize without having to cut the material,” she said.

Dee said this will also help designers create realistic renditions of their sketches and apply for design grants.

Besides avoiding unnecessary use of expensive fabric, Elumba said the technology will help companies reduce wastage and be more environment-friendly.

“We’re looking at an infinity symbol. We are after circularity (circular economy). You will have reduction in time for product development, reduction in fabric waste because of more efficient cutting lay out, both of which will increase your ability to produce,” she said. “You don’t have to keep on making something. You can iterate using the visual system.”

Because it will make the design process easier, the PTRI is expecting Perfect Fit to spur local businesses.

In addition to reducing wastage, it can help increase online sales if consumers become more confident with the size of the clothes.

“It creates more confidence that whenever you buy this size (online) it really is going to be the size that is meant to be a Filipino size M,” Elumba said.

She said Filipinos in the future can perhaps use their avatars to digitally fit clothes in online stores.

But more than getting the size right, Perfect Fit is also meant to collect data on the health of Filipinos.

“We are looking to see how we can correlate the nutrition profile and the size and shape of the Filipino,” Elumba said.

She said the national sizing system can help researchers understand how certain behaviors can literally shape people.

“We’re very visual. If you don’t see the impact of something, even if you tell me that this is good or bad, unless I see how it is going to shape me I won’t be able to relate,” Elumba said.

Eventually, the technology can also be used to design better fitting furniture - such as ergonomic chairs for Filipinos - and wheelchairs for persons with disabilities.

“If we have this information there is room for so much study and much research that can affect our every day life and living - not just for regular folk but for folks with different needs and different abilities,” Elumba said.

Now on its 2nd year, the Perfect Fit project is in the process of obtaining a plotter and a cutter. Right now, PTRI staff are able to simulate how clothes will look on people’s avatars. This includes having heat map-like images that show which parts are tight-fitting and which are loose, among other data. But they will have to test how the computer-designed clothes will be plotted on fabric and then cut.

 A sneak peek at future fashion: 3D scanning, avatars for Filipino consumers

Perfect Fit is also geared to move on to its second phase, which will involve the gathering of measurements of 10,800 Filipinos.

Elumba said they will be bringing the 3D scanner to different parts of the country to measure a certain demographic - the working population.

“What second phase means is we will be in a region every two months or every 6 weeks,” she said.

Elumba said the sample can be increased. Future studies can also look into sizes of Filipino children and even footwear.

“Down the road there are so many possibilities,” said Elumba.

For now, curious members of the public can head to the Department of Science and Technology’s event at the World Trade Center and have their avatar taken at the PTRI booth. The event will last until July 21. Admission is free.