Magic Mirror, At The Store, Should This Top Go In My Drawer?
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is the time of year when a lot of people are trying on prom dresses, wedding gowns, tuxedos.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
They're standing before a three-way mirror, and we've all been there, doing a series of awkward twists, trying to see how something looks from all angles.
BLOCK: But you never get a true rear view, do you?
CORNISH: Enter the digital mirror.
BLOCK: Bill Zeeble of member station KERA visited Neiman Marcus's Innovation Lab in its store in Willow Bend, Texas to learn how a high-tech looking glass would work.
BILL ZEEBLE, BYLINE: For centuries, people who've wanted to know how others might see them have stared at their reflections in glass. Snow White's evil stepmother even got help from a magic mirror.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS")
LUCILLE LA VERNE: (As Queen) Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?
ZEEBLE: But most mirrors are not magic. They just stand there, and we have to crane our necks and twirl around and hope that we're seeing what others see. That may be changing now thanks to new digital mirrors that can broaden our views of ourselves. At Neiman Marcus, Dallas's famous high-end retailer, they're testing something called a memory mirror in the women's clothing department. It's sort of like a full-size mirror, but instead of glass, there's a brushed stainless steel frame.
SALVADOR VILCOVSKY: What you see in Neiman Marcus - it's not a regular mirror. It's a digital mirror that we created.
ZEEBLE: Salvador Vilcovsky is the CEO of Memomi, a Silicon Valley company that's trying to reinvent the mirror by turning it into a screen with a first-of-its-kind camera on top.
VILCOVSKY: If you put the camera on top of the screen, you will look totally distorted. But what we are doing - we are correcting the perspective in real time and it looks like actually the camera is behind the screen.
ZEEBLE: This setup and a built-in recorder solves problems retailers have struggled with forever.
SCOTT EMMONS: If I want to see what I look like from the back, I have to try to, you know, turn my head, see if I can twist my neck around enough to see what I'm looking at.
ZEEBLE: That's Scott Emmons. He runs the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab. He says this mirror solves that problem. What sets it apart? It records an eight-second video.
EMMONS: The idea is you would do a twirl, and then you can play that video back as many times as you'd like - right? - and, you know, really see how the outfit looks on you.
ZEEBLE: At the Neiman Marcus in Willow Bend, Laurie Schneider's taking a turn in front of the memory mirror. Earlier, she registered on the store's iPad, added her personal ID and is now checking out her video.
LAURIE SCHNEIDER: I like seeing the pictures because I like the visual. I like that a lot. And I do think that me being able to see the back rather than from the creek of my neck, I can - it shows it all the way around.
ZEEBLE: There's another thing that 360 view tells her.
SCHNEIDER: It told me that I have some back fat (laughter). So to me, this is awesome. The mirror is great.
ZEEBLE: Great because it lets her talk to the saleswoman about making the dress fit right. It's for her son's wedding. Neiman's Scott Emmons say if Schneider wanted to, she could have tried on several outfits and videoed them all.
EMMONS: It also allows you to do a split screen and you can look at your live image on one side and you can look at one of the prerecorded videos on the other side and compare them.
ZEEBLE: Neither Neiman nor Vilcovsky would say how much these digital mirrors cost. They have three in use so far, and Emmons says they've been big. He also expects other retailers will latch on to the technology. For NPR News, I'm Bill Zeeble in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.