Body Labs blends 3D camera and sensor technologies with artificial intelligence to scan people so their digital avatars can interact with places, products and each other.
When soap manufacturer Cleo McVicker first developed Play-Doh as wallpaper cleaner, he had no idea he’d invented a product that would become a cornerstone of childhood play. McVicker isn’t alone in stumbling upon genius. In Silicon Valley, it’s a common occurrence.
“Tech companies have to pivot,” said Ramamurthy Sivakumar, vice president and managing director of Intel Capital. “Often, technology gets used in ways that the original inventor had no clue about. That is the history of technology.”
That’s what happened when 3D cameras and sensors first failed to entice consumers. Sivakumar explained that the adoption rate was much lower than anticipated, requiring companies to devise new ways to use the technology — and bring it to consumer devices.
Enter Body Labs, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) for 3D body modeling to create highly realistic avatars that mimic a person’s size, shape and movement.
“Our notion is that as we think about the physical and the virtual world coming together,” said Body Lab’s CEO and co-founder Bill O’Farrell, “you need the body to be the digital platform that can transcend those two worlds and live in both of those worlds.”
He believes highly realistic 3D avatars are becoming that digital platform.
Consumers could use their digital doppelganger to match clothing sizes with fashion influencers on Instagram, check in with how their body has changed since going paleo or shoot threes on a virtual basketball court against LeBron.
The technology has applications in a variety of markets, ranging from apparel and gaming to autonomous cars and personal fitness. One thing is for certain: customization is quickly becoming king.
“The idea is that you, as a consumer and as an individual, have your digital 3D ID out there, which is like your name and password, but you are really using that to unlock all kinds of different experiences,” said Sivakumar.
“In the last three years, there is extreme personalization happening in every aspect of human life. From designer drugs and personalized healthcare treatments to clothing and shoes, those products will be designed for our usage.”
Sivakumar uses the example of motorcycles, which are mostly designed for male riders. Motorcycle companies are catching on to the idea that women are interested in having their own smaller sized bikes. With a realistic 3D avatar that has each woman’s exact measurements, a 5-foot-9 woman would be able to purchase a custom bike designed differently than one for a woman who stands 5-foot-4.
How Body Modeling Works
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Body Labs’ 3D body modeling technology is that the avatar can be created from a 2D photo or video. That’s because neural networks, machine learning and complex algorithms work together behind the scenes, extracting precise measurements without deploying 3D sensors or full-body scans.
Instead, the company uses a broad statistical model that focuses on the breadth of human shape and possible human poses. A scanned image from a photo or video is first sent to the cloud, where Body Labs software assesses where the human’s joints are located in space. Then, the neural networks discern how the person is posed.
“Since we know all the possible geometric shapes a person can be and all the possible movements a person can undertake, we can then align those things and create a highly accurate avatar of that person,” said O’Farrell. “Then we can move that person through a full range of human motion.”
Consumers can see this technology in action by downloading the Mosh Camera smartphone application. The mobile app, which is powered by “human-aware AI,” allows users to create 3D characters or interactive environments from photos. It even has its own filters, a la Snapchat, that make for some fun customizations.
Because consumers don’t have to purchase separate devices or equipment to create 3D avatars, the technology has been more successful than previous 3D technologies like cameras and sensors. Body Labs is currently partnering with leading technology, apparel, automotive and gaming companies to make the technology even more accessible.
Body Labs received investment from Intel Capital investment to explore new uses for Intel RealSense 3D depth camera technology. These efforts are leading to new human-machine interactions.
“We can swap characters out in a video game and have the motion of a certain player apply to me, or inversely, apply my motions to a player,” O’Farrell said.
“We can take a picture of a woman and automatically extract her shape,” he continued. “We can then match the shape of that subject to the influencers on Instagram who share that woman’s same shape, which will give the user a better idea of how certain clothing and clothing sizes will fit.”
The latter example has benefits for companies, too. Apparel companies, for example, battle a 30 percent return rate on merchandise. Choosing the correct size on the first go could help reduce the time and money spent processing those returns.
As people continue to crave customized experiences, 3D scanning technologies will power the future, said Sivakumar. ShapeScale, for example, has already jumped on the bandwagon, offering a scale that uses 3D scanning technology to show where people are losing weight and gaining muscle. The technology is at the tip of the iceberg.
“It is the history of the technology industry to always overestimate the short-term and totally underestimate the long-term,” said Sivakumar, adding that he sees 3D technology playing out in the next five to 10 years.
“Then a lot of the ingredients will be in place to make a huge difference. Companies like Body Labs are building the essential ingredient to making personalization possible.”
Images and videos courtesy of Body Labs.