Click to touch

New software developed at Nottingham Trent University enables people to use a computer to examine the properties of different fabrics.

The Click 2 Touch programme, which uses a series of interactive virtual-reality animations to accurately mimic the movement of various fabrics as a mouse is dragged across them, is being commercialised by Nicola Davison, who came up with the idea while studying for an MA in Fashion and Textiles at the University.

Nicola, who is in talks with both national high street chains and independent retailers, is certain it will help to slash the number of online shopping returns which stands at almost 40%. Her business, Click 2 Touch, has recently been awarded a research development grant from the Department of Trade and Industry to help her develop the software even further.

Click 2 Touch’s software provides realistic ‘sensations’ for ten feelings – softness, fullness, smoothness, hairiness, prickliness, drape, thickness, elasticity, rigidity and warmth. Different 3D animations are used to convey the feeling of each sensation.

For example, for the hairiness sensation a close-up image of the garment’s surface is shown. By moving the mouse up and down it you can stroke the fibres and watch them ripple in a realistic way. The thickness sensation allows you to lift up the edge of a garment and drop it back down, while elasticity lets you stretch the garment before it returns to its original shape

By using the mouse, a user can also rotate the images and zoom in for a closer look at details such as necklines, patterns and seams. To develop the software, Nicola watched people shopping to see how they interacted with garments.

“The internet only appeals to two of our five senses – sight and sound, but clothing requires the sense of touch. Almost half of all garments bought online are returned, but less than 3% of items such as cds, dvds and books are sent back. The number of people buying online is growing, but when it comes to fashion the inability to feel garments is deterring potential customers,” said Davison.

She added: “The programme is also designed to make shopping online fun and rewarding rather than just clicking through pages. In the future I plan to develop the software to include home furnishings such as carpets, curtains and sofas.”

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