Even though we are buying more of everything online, retail stores will still play an important role in tomorrow’s cityscape, and there will be a myriad of ways to enhance the shopping experience. Take the clothing shop, for example. How can the inconvenient, mundane activity of shopping for and trying-on clothes be enchanted?
The mirror. Mirrors are an essential component to every clothing store—and they are charged with meaning and potential for enchantment. In many ancient civilizations, the dead were buried with reflective metals or stones, and mirrors were often associated with sun gods. In the Middle Ages, people believed they could look into mirrorlike devices and see the future. But the most relevant antecedent to today’s retail mirror comes from mythology. Narcissus, an extremely attractive lad, gazed at his reflection in a pool and, unable to look away, died. This myth exemplifies the belief that mirrors can show us an ideal identity—our best self.
As these anecdotes suggest, mirrors are almost magical in and of themselves. An augmented mirror, however, with interactive and social capabilities, could enable you to see an identity that you are actualizing and share that self with others. It could satisfy our desire to see the future and our role in it. As Mark Pendergrast states in his book Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection, “The mirror appears throughout human history as a means of self-knowledge [and] self-delusion. . . . Mirrors ushered-in the earliest human civilizations, and now they point us into the future.”
So, there is plenty of precedent for reinventing the ordinary mirror as a way to enhance the experience of in-store retail shopping. I’m working with an Israeli start-up company to do just that. The memory mirror, or MemoMi, is designed for use in retail stores, luxury hotel suites, and homes, anyplace where people are interested in trying on various outfits and getting feedback from remote friends about how they look. It can also be used to display images collected over time, to show a before-and-after change—for example, a difference in hair length at a salon or, at a gym, to show how your abs have become more defined.
When you step before the MemoMi mirror, it records a brief video of you. When you approach the mirror again, it displays the recorded image and the real-time image side by side. This will be a great boon to the clothing shopper. Choose outfit #1 and record how you look in the mirror. Try on outfit #2 and compare how you look in the two at the same time. If you have found more than two possibilities, no problem. Thumbnail images of the outfits stack up. Just point to the thumbnail you want, and you can compare it with what you’re currently wearing. Of course, there is a social function. You can access the images with an app and share the outfit options with your friends on Facebook or Twitter for immediate social shopping feedback. There’s nothing like the wisdom of the crowd to help you determine your best look. And there’s nothing like a little enchantment to make the shopping experience even more worthwhile.