Virtual product sampling

What is exactly virtual product sampling?

Retail organizations sample their products before they launch.  The sampling process basically involves having a physical sample manufactured and reviewed by product designers/creators. Product might undergo change based on look, feel, ergonomics, aesthetics and performance of product’s physical sample. The process is iterative at times and leads to lot of waste not only in material, but also in terms of delay and longer product life-cycles.

With emergence of image processing technologies and close to real life graphics, there are ways you can live without physical samples. Virtual samples look as good as real once, and most of work can be done virtually. In short more retailers are turning to virtual product sampling. Let’s understand the process and tools in depth in this area. The process is not limited to only retail products, just imagine the same thing applied to books. Instead of publishing books on paper for reviews, if virtual samples looked as good as real one, then how much paper would you would save? And this is already happening for example here. I just went ahead and created a sample account to see a virtual book looks like and quite neat IMO:

Let’s take another example and understand it better- NikeID is one such example available publicly. The idea of NikeID is that you can choose a style of shoe you want and then you can apply different materials and colors on various parts of shoe as per your choice to make your custom shoe.  The shoe is then ordered specially for you and is unique to you. Now this process of applying colors and materials to different parts of a product is quite close to what a designer of a retail organization would do. Just that the his choices transform into a product which you see in store shelve and you choose one (Or multiple if you are rich haha 😉 of them. Let’s try our hands step by step:

  • I chose a blank shoe, for upper part, I get to choose material from three available and color from few colors available:

  • I get to choose roughly 9-10 parts and various materials and colors. My choices of material and colors are really few but good enough to customize for myself. Now in actual practice when designers design a shoe, they might have plenty colors and materials to choose from (Color palette and material palette). Also the number of parts they can customize might be much more broad, so they can change even tiniest of parts to differentiate the design.
  • After I choose almost all parts here is how  a zoomed in section of my shoe looks like, the colors and materials are close to real. I can very clearly identify that the black part on which Nike logo resides is leather! That’s the beauty of it!

Technology behind the scenes

One of products which facilitates rendering of photograph like images from author files and color palette is Scene7. It can combine the combinations of color & material on a given product on the fly very well. So the possibilities are infinite in terms of what can be done. And of course that is not the only capability Scene7 has, its quite a versatile product!

These are my thoughts, have you worked in similar area and what are your thoughts would be interesting to hear.

References/Sources

Virtual Sampling in Books: http://www.hmheducation.com/virtualsampling/

Virtual Sampling using Scene7: http://www.scene7.com/Sell_Sheets/Scene7%20Virtual%20Sampling%20v3.2.pdf