Amazon Is Now 3D Scanning People

Amazon and other clothing retailers are starting to do 3D scans of shoppers, but it may not be the best practice for selling clothes.

By nowproducerdave on May 23, 2018
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

No, don’t be worried, it’s not “big brother” watching, it’s just some research that people are volunteering for. Amazon is getting into the 3D scanning game, designed to help people “track and measure subtle changes in their sizes and shapes.” Ultimately it will probably be used to help sell clothes in a more virtual world. Which, really, if it works well would be really convenient. It doesn’t come without downsides, though.

The tech world is growing very quickly, and is expanding into the shopping world fast as well. Amazon introduced their “Echo Look,” which is an Alexa device that has a camera. It was made to be a “style assistant.” It let you take pictures of yourself in different outfits and then share to social media. Basically a hands-free selfie camera with a brain. Amazon is getting their hands in everything technology, they even want to make robots that follow you around. Anyway, Amazon is stepping into more modern shopping times by offering 3D scanning (soon, probably). If you have a 3D scan of yourself, you can see exactly how clothing will fit around you, how it will hang, etc. Really convenient, because we all know that the classic “holding a shirt up for size” just never works. We’ve all been there, and we all still do it anyway.

But, there are potential psychological consequences of such technology. One psychology professor thinks that when people see themselves in 3D, it won’t meet their own expectations of how they see themselves. She conducted a test in which participants were scanned and asked questions. Before the scan, the participants selected a drawing of a body that they felt most closely matched their own. After the scan, they selected a drawing that most closely matched what they saw in the scan. What Professor Jessica Ridgway found was that after seeing their own body in 3D, their perception changed drastically. After seeing the scans, “participants reported feeling less satisfied with their bodies and more negative in general.” On average, people’s perception of their own body before the scan was about one figure smaller. After the scan, they saw themselves as one figure larger than before the scans.

She found that people can end up feeling less motivated to shop for clothing. The scans can actually cause negative body-image feelings, and even a feeling of bitterness to the technology. Professor Ridgway feel like people, once they see the scans, would rather go home and work on their body. Then, after getting their body where they want it to be, they may take their business somewhere else that didn’t show them “everything that was wrong.” See more on the research here.

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