New Company to Deploy Embodee's Try-On Technology

We can finally disclose exciting news that we hinted at in a blog post last May: Embodee has extended an exclusive license to its patented Online Try-On℠ technology to a newly formed company, Intervisual Corp.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Intervisual was founded by Embodee’s former chief technology officer, George Borshukov. Working with Embodee CEO André Wolper, George led the development of the try-on technology along with R&D Director Isabelle Haulin, who has also joined Intervisual.

The try-on technology, using dynamically rendered 3D visualizations, projects how garments look and fit on shoppers so accurately that it leads to large decreases in returns and corresponding increases in sales. 

“This move increases the resources behind the try-on technology, and enables Intervisual to focus on it,” said André, who is a member of Intervisual’s board of directors. “All the while it enables Embodee to further increase its already strong focus on virtual product experiences for customizable products.”

George said, “This is the perfect challenge for me at this stage of my career—build a new company uniquely equipped to solve the biggest problem with buying clothes online. And we’re already off to a fast start.”

Digital Technology Innovator Joins Embodee Team

We’re excited to announce that a technologist integral to development of award-winning virtual product experiences for major companies has joined the Embodee team.

Ben Sosinski, who played critical roles in several ground-breaking projects for Nike, including two featuring online product customization, is the company’s new vice president of product and technology operations.

Ben-Sosinski.jpg

Ben brings more than 14 years of technology development experience to Embodee. In his new role he will work with existing and new customers in their adoption of Embodee’s technology to best meet their current and future needs. He will also work closely with CEO André Wolper in defining the company’s long-term product roadmap.

“Embodee’s relationship with Ben dates back several years and started when we began work on a joint development. As a result, Ben already knows our current technology very well. Everyone here has loved working with him, and so I’m really happy that he decided to join our team in a leadership role.”

Ben said: “I’m passionate about creating products and services that truly help change people’s lives. So I‘m really excited to be part of a team that has done such an amazing job enhancing digital experiences so people can better express themselves.”

Ben comes to Embodee from R/GA, an international agency known for its innovation in technology, design, and marketing. In his 10 years with R/GA, he developed for and led teams around the world, with a focus on bridging the gap between designers and technologists.

For seven of those 10 years, Ben was a developer and technical lead for R/GA’s Nike account. His Nike projects included the company’s flagship ecommerce site, NikeStore, the mobile version of NikeiD and NikeTeamSports. Both sites enable consumers to customize athletic footwear and team uniforms in real time. He was also a developer and architect of the original Nike+ website, which today is an online community of nearly 30 million people who use the site to track and improve their training and performance.

The NikeiD project received three honors and awards, including a Webby Award in 2013. The Nike+ project won a 2007 Cannes Titanium Lions award, one of the most prestigious international awards for creative work in the world of advertising. 

Ben’s most recent work has been directing large development teams in creating innovative digital products for AARP and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Thumbs Up for Our CTO's New Venture

We're happy for our colleague, CTO George Borshukov, who's changed focus to embark on some new and old challenges in the coming months! 

The details of George's new focus are shrouded in stealth mode for now, but we'll be sharing more with you--so stay tuned. What we can say is that while George will greatly reduce his time working for Embodee's existing business, his main focus will be continuing to plumb the depths and possibilities of computer-enhanced visualization.

George joined the Embodee team in 2009 after having created innovations for the interactive entertainment industry as well as Academy Award-winning special effects for the motion-picture industry. 

“Credit for Embodee’s growth and success goes to our entire team, but George's contributions were integral and absolutely essential, especially in the early years,” said CEO André Wolper. “We look forward to having him around the ‘hood and to helping him and his new company whenever we can.” 

André assumes the CTO role and will increase his involvement in the evolution of the company’s patented technology and services.

George said: “I’m proud of Embodee’s technological achievements, my contributions to them, as well as the team at Embodee. Pioneering is what I love to do, so I’m  looking forward to advancing visual technology yet again in new domains.”

What Most Influences You to Buy Products Online

Other than price, what’s the next most important factor that influences people to buy clothing and accessories?

Product images. More than 60% of consumers surveyed rated pictures of clothing and accessories as a top influence. That’s 1.5 times higher than the average importance of images for all product categories.

The answer comes courtesy of an insightful white paper, “Online Browsing Behaviors of the Apparel Shopper,” by HookLogic, a global leader in commerce search advertising. The white paper is based on a shopping-behavior survey of 500 consumers and an analysis of more than 11 million online transactions representing more than $1.2 billion in sales.

“Clearly consumers want detailed images that show exactly what the items look like, and potentially on them...for apparel, a picture really is worth a thousands word,” according to HookLogic.

“It seems obvious, but many retailers and brands still have a long way to go here. Multiple, high-res shots of items should be included…”

Central to Embodee’s virtual product experiences for business are vivid 3D images rendered on demand in the cloud and seamlessly delivered to clients’ websites. The images, used by some of the world’s most prominent sports apparel brands, aren’t photographs but virtual 3D replicas of products such as apparel and footwear.

About 86% rated price as the biggest influence when shopping for clothing and accessories, compared to 83% for all categories. Ranking behind price and product images as top purchase influence factors are product description (about 56%), product ratings and reviews (about 41%), product materials and ingredients (about 35%), and product name (about 14%).

The whitepaper also explores the most-used search terms for apparel and accessories, pre-purchase browsing habits, impulse buying, rates of online vs offline shopping, and much more.

Embodee's CTO Accepts Second Academy Award

 George Borshukov, flanked by co-winners Kim Libreri and Dan Piponi, thanks Academy

 George Borshukov, flanked by co-winners Kim Libreri and Dan Piponi, thanks Academy

We’re raising our glasses to company CTO George Borshukov. On Feb. 7, he received more recognition for his visual effect breakthroughs for the movie industry--his second Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement.

“I haven’t been in the industry for 10 years,” he told the audience at a dinner awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California. “It’s so incredible that the Academy does the research...to look at these technologies and recognize them. It’s truly amazing.”

As we wrote in a news release last week, George and two former colleagues, Dan Piponi and Kim Libreri, were honored for developing Universal Capture, which enabled creating realistic virtual human faces of actors for the first time. The work, used in the two sequels to The Matrix, later inspired or contributed to development of other systems used in many movies and video games.

Embodee’s vivid 3D rendering of apparel and footwear isn’t the same technology that George helped to develop for Hollywood. But like Universal Capture for the movies, the company’s ground-breaking visual effects wizardry that he and our tech team created is enabling the apparel and footwear industries to do what they could never do before.

Under the Influence: 3D Imagery and Online Shopping

Marketers and academicians slice, dice, and categorize us into countless niches. A fertile topic for their research has long been how we shop, and more so now with e-commerce’s unrelenting growth.

Much studied regarding e-commerce is the influence of website imagery in promoting products. As early as 2002, researchers found that using 3D images triggers mental imagery that enhances the virtual shopping experience. A 2013 study we wrote about found that adding interactivity to 3D product images, such as 360-degree rotation, significantly increases purchase intention.

A new study published in November in the Journal of Business Research examined two niches of shoppers: those who have a high need to touch products before buying them online and those who don’t. Specifically, the two researchers wanted to know how viewing vivid 3D vs 2D product images would influence the two groups. They also wanted to know whether the effects would vary based on the type of product featured.

Yung Kyun Choi

Yung Kyun Choi

Yung Kyun Choi of Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea, and Charles R. Taylor of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, used images of a jacket and watch for the study. They wanted to measure differences in how study participants reacted to a soft material product and a more rigid geometric item.

Four sites with fake brand names were built. Two promoted the jacket, one in 3D and the other in 2D. The other two sites similarly promoted the watch. The participants, 207 undergraduate students in Seoul, were divided into four groups. Each group used one of the sites and then completed a questionnaire.

Choi and Taylor wrote that the results overall indicate 3D outperforms 2D in “improving consumers’ attitude toward the brand, purchase intention, and intention to revisit the website.”

Charles R. Taylor

Charles R. Taylor

As the researchers expected, the watch had more persuasive effects than the jacket, likely because of a lower perceived “need for touch,” or NFT, as in touch in the real vs virtual world.

Study participants with a low need-for-touch were more positively influenced by the 3D jacket and had an increased intention to buy. For those with high NFT, there was no significant difference in the effects of 3D and 2D jacket imagery. However, the high NFT group more favored the 3D jacket website and showed a higher intention to revisit the site.

Choi and Taylor said their findings suggest that “the virtual experience associated with a 3D website leads to more vivid and realistic product imagery and more favorable attitudes. Apparently study participants’ mental models, developed while interacting with a 3D image, cause illusions of quasi-sensory experiences, somewhat akin to direct product experience.”

What the study didn’t take into account are steps brands and retailers have taken to persuade those with high-tactile needs, as well as concerns about fit, to buy apparel online without touching it first. These include a mix of free shipping and returns, and in-store pickup and returns. 

Some companies, such as mens-only online apparel brand Todd Shelton, mail fabric swatches to prospective buyers, eliminating any uncertainty about the feel of the material. (This service persuaded one of us at Embodee to break his apparel budget and buy his first pair of pro selvedge jeans.)

Given continuing advances in haptic technologies that simulate the sense of touch, it’s inevitable that the NFT barrier will be broken. Besides viewing vivid interactive 3D imagery of apparel that accurately depicts drape, weave, and more--the service Embodee delivers to its clients, shoppers will also be able to feel what they see via vibrations from a touchpad, stylus, or other device.

And no doubt that will help apparel and footwear maintain or increase its share of online retail sales. According to market research firm Euromonitor International, the sector captured 20% of the $638.6 billion in total global online sales last year, the largest share among all sectors.