The only thing this dressing room can’t answer is ‘Do I look fat in this?’

(Author : Maria Halkias)
An interactive dressing room by Oak Labs has been installed in the new Polo Ralph Lauren store at NorthPark Center in Dallas.

Interactive is an overused word for sure, but apply it to a dressing room and you’re solving some problems because getting dressed again and schlepping your stuff back out into the store to see what else you can find, is no fun.

The new Polo Ralph Lauren at NorthPark Center just installed a new operating system in its dressing rooms created by Oak Labs, a New York-based startup that has raised $4.1 million in venture capital funds to build its business. It’s a staff of a dozen former eBay, Gap, Levis, Nike and Microsoft folks including engineers and industrial designers.

The Dallas store is only the second one with Oak Labs’ new dressing rooms that use an interactive, touch-screen mirror and RFID tags on clothing and accessories to essentially put the entire store at your finger tips. Oak Labs CEO and co-founder Healey Cypher said in an interview Monday that the interactive mirror has been converting shoppers into buyers in Ralph Lauren’s flagship 5th Avenue store in Manhattan since last November.

He can’t share Ralph Lauren’s numbers, but Cypher said, the dressing rooms wouldn’t be rolled out to other Polo Ralph Lauren stores if the technology wasn’t performing. The interactive dressing room is another way that stores can meld their experiences and “re-humanize the shopping experience,” Cypher said. “It’s all about utility. Technology can’t create new hassles. It has to solve problems.”

There’s no app to install on your phone. There’s no camera in the mirror. You don’t even need your phone to interact with the dressing room. It’s all touch screen operated. Store staffers communicate back to the shopper through an iPad app. Their answers appear on the mirror. This can happen now because an expensive technology that Wal-Mart tried to advance back in the 1990s and early 2000s has finally become cheap enough. The mirror has a radio frequency identification reader behind it that is activated when merchandise enters the dressing room. Hanging paper tags cost under 10 cents, said Oak Labs chief business officer and co-founder Michael Franklin.

Here’s how it works: The mirror displays small photos of what’s in the room and quickly adds what other sizes, colors are in the store along with other unique information about the item. If the customer doesn’t speak English, she can select four other languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese or Italian. More may be added later. Lighting themes can be selected to change the brightness in the room.

Realizing those pants would probably fit better one size up or down, when your boots are off and you still have a few tops you want to try on with these pants is a hassle. The sales associate name is on the screen. You can ask her for a new size. The system will translate it back to her in English. Not sure how to wear something? You can view stylist recommendations and request a belt or other accessory suggestion. Finally, you can text a list of everything you tried on to your phone and send a message to the sale clerk saying you’re ready to check out.

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