How Data Can Streamline The World’s Wardrobe

How Data Can Streamline The World’s Wardrobe

Getting dressed in the future is going to be a breeze. From the looks of it, our clothes will be able to amplify our emotions, our customization choices will be vast, and we’ll even be able to try on anything we like from home — all thanks to data. As low-power, travel-ready methods of exchanging information find their way into our clothes—and by extension, our everyday lives—the possibilities for connectivity are nearly endless. As reams of style data find their way into neural networks over time, a revolution of the closet is all but inevitable. Here’s a closer look at the data-powered possibilities for wardrobes of the world in the not-too-distant future.

Wardrobes That Auto Refresh

Replacing your favorite tattered t-shirt will soon be a job fit for automation. As AI improves and data tied to our habits starts to flow, the online shopping experience will become better at anticipating our intentions and needs. When it comes to sourcing clothing we like, technology will increasingly take the wheel.

“As humans, we’ve made a concession that we’re comfortable with making fewer choices and letting the computers choose for us,” says commerce startup MikMak’s CEO Rachel Tipograph. With the continued growth of image-recognition software, taking a selfie in that tattered tee could trigger all sorts of automated replenishment actions down the line – like locating and purchasing the best deal on a replacement from a worldwide list of merchants.

The wallet itself could disappear as discrete payment systems hidden in RFID tags stitched into the lining of garments allow us to wear our checkbooks on our sleeves. As global access to choice streamlines our options, Tipograph foresees an even more radical future: an endlessly updated cycle of machine-and-human curated rentable clothing that moves us “into the world of actually owning very little.”

Style That Evolves on Demand

Big data is slated to do big things in areas where style meets creativity. As the fidelity of the data improves over time, data science will help brands select new styles and make informed recommendations about their product selections for next season. “It’s not that AI is going to steal everybody’s job,” says Jessica Graves, data scientist and founder of fashion consultancy Sefleuria: “It’s that AI is going to augment people’s abilities.”

This newfound intelligence in our wardrobes will augment our style on the fly too. (Even iconic athletic clothing brands, long recognized for their classic looks, are predicting that ‘custom’ will become the new normal.) Location-aware clothes will create the opportunity to adapt to the presence of an attractive person in the room, literally “downloading a new pattern and instantly transforming the clothes you’re wearing,” says Ryan Genz, CEO of tech fashion house CuteCircuit.

And that hot new designer? The one whose trend-igniting threads are showing up across the world? Soon that will be you – printing from home. The kind of design we associate with big fashion houses could become more affordable, so that anyone can A/B test designs against a global audience of consumers. “Small brands can have just as sophisticated an infrastructure and run the same kinds of experiments as big ones,” Graves predicts. “AI can help them manage that infrastructure.”

A Custom Fitting Room Anywhere

Algorithms are already guessing what fits: measurement prediction startup Bold Metrics can remotely and reliably predict a man’s body measurements based only on his height, weight, age, waist, and shoe size. Other companies are similarly exploring the territory of efficient and predictive body scanning.

Tipograph foresees that people will increasingly use digital video to grasp the essence of blouses and denim, effectively translating the tactile aspects of the changing room from afar. “When video becomes the predominant way, designers will care about the inside of a pocket because you can see a hand go into the pocket and pull out the fabric.” By that point, advances in scraped digital video will facilitate your search for the precise corduroy wale you’ve been yearning for.

After video shifts to augmented reality, the next step is the virtual fitting room. Advanced virtual reality experiences can turn the data of fit, form, and fabric into a bottomless wardrobe limited only by the imagination. Even the feel of the fabrics themselves will come to life. The next generation of VR rigs will sport small banks of ultrasonic speakers that silently project sensations to our hands, allowing virtually anyone to handle a garment located anywhere in the world from the comfort of their home.

Clothes That Talk to a Global Network

The biggest near-term breakthrough in sensor-laden clothing will be wearables we actually want to wear. Beyond that, the closet of the future is expected to house a diverse array of connected pieces of clothing capable of sharing data with a network – and eventually each other. “There’s a massive opportunity to make much less of a pain point in terms of creativity across multiple devices,” Tipograph says. Getting our jeans to talk to our shoes and then check in with a wristwatch is only the beginning.

With the rise of connected clothing, friends will convey their thoughts at the speed of a hug as digital data handshakes tied to time and location happen in the background. Once this information inevitably finds its way to tomorrow’s increasingly artificially intelligent network, the possibilities are endless. “A goal would be to sync up all the fashion data in the world,” says Katy Lubin, of style search startup Lyst. In doing so, Lubin and her colleagues hope to unlock a world where “anything in the world that exists” will be searchable. In this not-too-distant future, style won’t just be about indicating who we are – it will also tell the story of the data that defines us.


This content is produced by WIRED Brand Lab in collaboration with Western Digital Corporation

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