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The innovators: the app promising the perfect-fitting bra

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Technology developed by Thirdlove, the San Francisco-based bra company, can work out the appropriate bra size for a woman using iPhone photos

The idea of running bra shopping used to be a long way down Heidi Zaks list of priorities.

The way that a woman ordinarily gets fitted for a bra is that there is an older lady who is going to measure you with a quantify videotape, she explained. A plenty of women dont feeling comfy with that process[ and] dont get measured so they dont know their true size.

However, Zak may have found a modern alternative to the ritual of get sized up in the dressing room of a department store – using iPhones to calculate the dimensions of a womans bust at home.

Technology developed by Thirdlove, the San Francisco-based bra company which Zak co-founded, can work out the appropriate bra sizing for a woman through photos she has taken in front of a mirror.

Heidi

Heidi Zak, CEO of Thirdlove.

We are providing the fitting mechanism from the consolation of a womans home without her needing to interact with anyone else, Zak said.

The technology not only means females can avoid the awkward trip-up to the department store, but it stops them wearing bras the hell is uncomfortable and not the right fit. As many as six out of every 10 girls suffer from this problem according to surveys.

The sizing technology runs via an iPhone app. To use it, a woman must take two pictures of themselves while wearing a tight fitted top in front of a mirror. The phone is held at the bellybutton and a scene is taken from the front and the side. Software developed by Thirdlove then draws up measurings by calculating the distance between the mirror and the contour of the body.

I can detect the size of her body in relation to the phone and then we deduce a circumference and a body shape from that. In essence what we are getting is her overbust, her underbust measures and her body shape, which is the same thing a bra fitter get in a store, said Zak.

Through our technology we understand what sort of telephone[ iPhone 4, 5, or 6] you are on. From there we understand how far you are from the mirror based on the size of the phone and then we can calculate a womans body in relation to the phone itself. In essence, when you think of a women in the store getting out the evaluate tape, we are doing that using a phone as a standard unit of measure.

When the pictures have been processed, the women is depict the measurements of the bust and a recommended bra sizing for Thirdloves range of products, which includes half sizes.

The use of the smartphone in calculating sizes represents another step in bridging the gap between traditional clothes shopping and e-commerce.

In Sweden, a company called Volumental has developed softwarethat can estimate the exact size of a foot employing cameras. Clients can then use these details to build bespoke shoes.

So far the growth of online apparel marketings has failed to match initial expectations. About 15 years ago it was expected that online sales would account for between 40% and 50% of clothing sales by now, but the actual figure is less than half these projections according to Zak.

One of the main reasons for this is that shoppers cannot establish the fit of dres through a website. As a outcome, return rates for online attire can average between 30% and 40% for retailers. Bras are the most extreme category because fit is everything, Zak added. Exchange rates are actually, actually high.

However with tools such as Thirdloves, Zak says people will become increasingly comfortable buying clothes online. Thirdloves return rates are now less than 5 %, with one-in-three bra sales coming through the new sizing technology.

Nonetheless, some girls are still sceptical that receiving the correct bra fitting can be solved by an app.

I have had many, many women say to me I altogether cant believe this will actually work, says Zak. They try it because they are being this is crazy, of course this is not going to work. Then they get a sizing and it is a half sizing and it seems actually right.

Problems can emerge when the phone is not held in the right way, entailing the gyroscopes in the device cannot record the proper measuring. It is more accurate than a measuring tape presuming person follows the directions properly. There can be user fault, a lot of it has to do with holding the phone at the right slant, she said.

Prices for the bras range between PS33 ($ 49) and PS46 with a shipping fee of PS17 applying to orders from the UK. Each bra lasts an average of about a year.

The clothing is functional, according to Zak, and it should mean that girls no longer have to take off their uncomfortable bra as soon as they get home at the end of the day.

The initial scepticism about having a bra fitted via a mobile phone seems to be reducing: the technology is being used by roughly as many females over persons under the age of 45 as those under that age. Thirdlove has so far received PS3. 83 m ($ 5.6 m) in investment.

You can read our archive of The innovators columns hereor on the Big Innovation Centre website where you will find more information on how Big Innovation Centre supports innovative enterprise in Britain and globally .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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