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The Future of High Tech Shopping Is Closer Than You Think

From "instant try-on" cameras to TSA-style scanners that determine the best jeans for you, technology is coming to your shopping mall.

Brick-and-mortar shops are worried about losing out to online retailers, and they're gearing up to fight back with technology of their own. A new report from brand and trend consultants PSFK uncovers a bevy of new screens, sensors, and even TSA-style scanners that could alter the way we shop in person.

The full 109-page report is worth a read if you're in the retail business. For the rest of us, they've been posting a few samples of the best discoveries to offer a taste of the shopping mall of the future. The main message is that technology can make shopping less of a giant pain in the ass.

There are too many dressing room "innovations" to keep track of, from changing pods that fall from the ceiling to custom soundtracks that correspond to the outfit you're considering—yes, that sundress sounds different than those black jeans.

The most new-wave dressing room technology involve virtual tools that allow "instant try-ons." Instead of mirrors, cameras take your photo or video (privacy worries are so last century) and show you what you'd look like in that dress you aren't sure about, or the makeup you don't want to try on.

Worried you won't get the perfect fit? How about a TSA-style scanner adapted for fashion? One new technology rolling out in a few malls called MyBestFit uses full-body sensors to assess your body and suggest just the right cut for your skinny jeans or fitted button-down based on 200,000 points of measurement. It even offers new brands that design for your body type.

In general, expect a lot of sensors, and not just for clothes. Some of them you'll aim at the products, and others will be aimed at you: advertisements will guess your age and gender to tailor an in-store pitch; vending machines will use facial recognition to suggest a soft drink for you, the supermarket aisles will pitch an entire personalized meal.

"The Next Generation Meal Planning Solution [from Intel and Kraft] incorporates sensors that use anonymous video analytics software to detect the age and gender of the person standing in front of it to determine which recipes may be a good fit based on collected demographic information," the report says. That's a real service if you believe Kraft's claim that the average consumer recycles the same 7 to 10 recipes and generally don't know what they'll eat for dinner when they walk in the store.

For the bros out there yawning at the prospect of shopping through scanners and screens, retailers are adopting some video game-inspired sales experiences to lure in new buyers. Xbox's motion-sensing Kinect technology factors into a few gesture-based shopping trends. You can wave your hand and see a new product, paint virtual graffiti on the storefront, or even make a ballerina in the window display dance, all in an effort to get you into the store play with products.

The report also includes plenty of back-end innovations to empower employees to be better helpers or make inventory management smoother. So geek out on PSFK if that's your thing; otherwise, get ready to scan and be scanned in the mall of the future.

Photos via Intel and

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