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Shoe shoppers step up to virtual mirror

System lets customers try on shoes without the hassle of taking pairs on and off.

Virtual mirror for shoes
A customer tests out the new shoe system at a Paris Adidas store.

Love the idea of walking out of the store with hip new shoes, but don't like the idea of trying on a dozen pairs to see which ones look best? Researchers from the image-processing department at Berlin's Heinrich-Hertz-Institut have come up with a system that lets shoppers "try on" footwear without having to lace, tie, buckle or Velcro.

A camera captures the customer's feet in standard fitting boots, then imposes 3D computer-generated video images of various styles onto those same tootsies. Standing before the "virtual mirror," consumers select their looks via touch-screen and can track their pose-striking motions in real time. Besides checking for fit, clients can personalize the shoes by changing color and design.

Adidas runs the system in its uber-modern store that opened in October 2006 at the Champs Elysees in Paris. The Heinrich-Hertz-Institut will show off the technology more widely at this year's CeBit consumer electronics fair, which runs from March 15-21 in Hannover, Germany.


Visitors to last year's CeBit, meanwhile, caught sight of an "intelligent dressing room" by international retailer Metro Group that lets consumers try on outfits without taking their clothes off. Basically, it scans your measurements and lets you see, on a projection screen, how a piece will look on you. You also get a list of suggested items that go along with the outfit you choose.

Now we're just waiting for that intelligent home-shopping system that lets the mall- and dressing-room-averse "try on" clothes and shoes sans crowds or pushy clerks, then hit the purchase button and just wait for the new look to arrive.