Amazon wins a Patent covering Future Retail Store Smart Mirrors for Virtual Reality Fashion Shopping
This week Amazon was granted a patent titled "Blended reality systems and methods." The patent was originally filed in 2015. On the consumer side, Amazon introduced 'echo look' earlier this year as reported on by CNN who noted that "It's part camera, part Alexa, part fashionista," as noted in the video below.
Amazon's Blended Reality Patent Granted
On Tuesday the U.S. Patent Office granted Amazon patent number 9,858,719 for a "Blended Reality System." It's Amazon's advanced version of 'echo look' for retail stores that comes in the form of a smart mirror.
To get a quick understanding of the invention, the video below takes a look at a similar system called the 'MemoMi' smart mirror system that Neiman Marcus first introduced in their stores.
Technically speaking, Amazon notes in their patent that aspects of their smart mirror invention relates to generating a blended reality view for a user by combining reflections from a mirror with light transmitted through the mirror by a display. The invention covers systems and methods configured to blend transmitted and reflected light to form a single scene, as perceived by a user, by controlling the amount of light on either side of a mirror or other reflective element. A blended reality view can be used to provide a visual representation of the user in different settings other than the one the user is actually in. Similarly, the blended reality view can be used to provide a visual representation of items, such as clothes, on the user without the user actually wearing the physical item.
Display systems can be used to provide a view of objects that are not actually in a scene but that are perceived to be there by a user. This can be accomplished using angled glass and lighting techniques. Teleprompters, amusement park rides, heads up displays, visual illusions, and the like employ similar methods for providing a user a view of a portion of reality (e.g., light transmitted from a scene through the angled glass) along with a portion of projected objects (e.g., light reflected from an object or display by the angled glass). The patent however, focuses on a smart mirror as it relates to personal fashion.
To generate a blended reality view, a blended reality apparatus can i) selectively illuminate the user, ii) leave the rest of the room dark, and/or iii) project an image of the particular setting (e.g., a restaurant), the projected image being shown on the display at a location where the user would have seen a reflection of objects or surfaces in the room. Because the user is illuminated, the user can see their reflection. Because the rest of the room is dark but the apparatus is projecting an image of the particular setting, the user can see the setting instead of a reflection of the room. Furthermore, the apparatus can also project an image of the new outfit so that the user sees a superposition of their reflection with the projected new outfit so that it appears as though the user is wearing the outfit.
Amazon's patent FIGS. 1A-C illustrate a smart mirror or 'blended reality apparatus' configured to generate a blended reality view. Amazon notes that patent FIGS. 1B and 1C can be combined. For example, the blended reality apparatus #100 can be configured to provide a blended reality view that includes a projected scene to change an environment around the user (e.g., the beach scene #112 illustrated in FIG. 1B) and an object to be perceived as being worn by the user (e.g., the shirt #117 illustrated in FIG. 1C).
Amazon's Patent FIG. 4 as noted in our graphic above, illustrates an example smart mirror, described generically in the patent as apparatus #400, that is configured to generate a blended reality view, the apparatus is configured to control lighting within an environment to enhance the blended reality view. The blended reality apparatus includes hue lights #133 around a periphery of the mirror.
The hue lights can be controlled to change the color and/or intensity of light within a room and/or on a wall behind the blended reality apparatus to enhance the generated blended reality view. The hue lights can be any suitable light or combination of lights providing a single color or a range of colors in the visible spectrum.
For example, the color and/or intensity of the hue lights can be configured to change based on the blended reality view perceived by the user at the mirror #120. If the blended reality view includes the user on a boat in the ocean, the hue lights can be configured to shine blue shimmering light on the walls, floor, and/or ceiling or other objects to enhance the blended reality experience.
The hue lights can also include strands of LED lights around a frame of the blended reality apparatus that change depending on what is transmitted and/or reflected by the apparatus.
The blended reality apparatus can also be configured to control lighting fixtures #135. The lighting fixtures can be sources of diffuse light or directed light positioned throughout the environment in which the blended reality apparatus will be used.
The lighting fixtures can provide isotropic, diffuse, anisotropic, and/or directional light (e.g., spotlights). However, the lighting fixtures and the hue lights differ from the projectors #130 in that the projectors can modulate the light they produce to provide a targeted or desired light output (e.g., by modulating pixels to project a pattern of light that can change over time) whereas the lighting fixtures and/or hue lights can be controlled to change a direction, brightness and/or color of the light, but not to generate a targeted pattern of light output.
Amazon's patent further notes that user input can be received via voice commands (think Alexa), motion-based commands, touch interface controls, wireless signals, eye-tracking and the like. The system is noted as using a depth camera to map out users / customers profiles in order to have clothing items virtually placed exactly right on the user when looking at the mirror.
And lastly, Amazon's patent states that the "blended reality system can be used in retail outlets in dressing rooms or other areas where users try on clothes prior to purchasing them. The blended reality system can be used to provide a plurality of simultaneous blended reality views for the user, generating an immersive blended reality environment."
At the end of the day, Amazon's smart mirror patent only has a chance as a device used in stores as presented in the Neiman Marcus video or for super rich women like Kim Kardashian who likely has a wardrobe as big as Neiman Marcus entire fashion floor. It's not a device for us mere mortals.
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A Side Note: While Apple hasn't invented a standalone smart mirror, and never will, they do have a number of patent pending inventions going back to the 2010-2011 timeline that cover an app called 'My Closet.' The idea behind the app was to present users with a virtual closet concept on their iPhone to assist them in coordinating their outfit pieces in various combinations and then sharing them with friends on social media for feedback and more (one, two and three).