The Science of Fashion?

I wanted to share one of the latest developments in our efforts to accelerate the development of the 3D Internet. Researchers at Intel Labs have begun to collaborate with the Fashion Research Institute (FRI) to help bring the benefits of immersive environments such as virtual worlds (VWs) to a broader range of business and consumer applications.

FRI is interested in virtual worlds because the fashion industry, which creates soft consumer goods, does not typically use the 3D computer aided design (CAD) tools used in the durable goods industry. However, since clothing and accessories are 3D objects with complex shapes, traditional 2D sketches cannot fully convey the exact shapes and sizes that the designer intends for the product. So, when a clothing manufacturer attempts to turn a set of 2D drawings into a 3D object, errors often occur, and it usually takes several attempts before the correct design is produced. Each attempt results in unusable physical samples which cannot be sold (and which are destroyed to prevent poor quality goods from making it into the marketplace).

3D virtual worlds offer a platform for designing apparel with a level of accuracy that is far better than traditional methods, without the cost or complexity of 3D CAD tools. Using VWs for fashion design can significantly reduce waste by eliminating the cost and materials needed to create and re-create prototypes until they are correct. They also allow the designer and manufacturer to review designs together in a virtual space over great distances. Given that many manufacturers are in countries where significant virtual world investment has already occurred (such as China), much of the basic capabilities are already in place.

Through this new collaboration FRI is providing visually compelling, highly detailed content (shown in this video) to aid in Intel’s 3D Internet research. The new 3D content derives from FRI’s “Shengri-La” project and will include highly visual landscapes, structures, and a series of interactive art and fashion exhibits.

To explore these technical challenges, this content is being added to Supercomputing 2009’s ScienceSim, a virtual world created for education and scientific collaboration. Intel is collaborating with SC’09 to develop the hardware and simulation infrastructure behind this world. Based on the OpenSim VW simulator, ScienceSim also seeks to foster open-source innovation as a means to accelerate the proliferation of VW technology. The complex models provided by FRI will allow us to find new ways to push the state of the art for VWs such as ScienceSim in terms of 3D content creation, sharing, and quality.

So what does fashion have to do with science? Well, in addition to researching ways to make the underlying VW simulators capable of rendering more visually appealing content, we also plan to use these experimental regions as a forum to educate people on topics such as the material science behind fashion and the relationship of these complex materials to design and development. How do you make so many kinds of leather with such different properties? How do you develop synthetic fabrics? In fact, there are many aspects to the science of fashion, and virtual design is just one of the latest developments.

To learn a bit more, read this blog by Shenlei Winker, CEO of FRI.

5 Responses to The Science of Fashion?

  1. Sean Koehl says:

    Affordability is a one of motivations for this work. The idea is rather than having to purchase expensive computer aided design tools (CAD), you would do this in a virtual world environment. ScienceSim itself is a tool for such experimentaiton you can go to sciencesim.com and try it at no cost to you.