Amazon is starting to scan customers’ bodies in the name of online shopping

Things with Amazon are about to get really intimate. According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the online retailer, which already knows more than its fair share about you and your shopping preferences, is about to learn something more — your exact size. Amazon is reportedly inviting customers into a New York office in order to keep tabs on their body shape and size over a 20 week time period.

Twice a month, volunteers (chosen from a survey) will visit the office in order to allow Amazon to better understand “how bodies change shape over time,” as per the survey. In return, participants will receive Amazon gift cards worth up  to $250.

The new endeavor seems to come as part of Amazon’s recent acquisition of computer vision startup Body Labs, and the company’s subsequent development of a 3D  body scanning team. The idea, it would appear, is for Amazon to be able to help you find a pair of pants that fits you perfectly, or aid customers in visualizing exactly how a dress might suit a particular body type. This could reduce the number of returns that Amazon has to process, which is always a risk when dealing with online shopping (particularly for clothes).

Amazon is currently building up its body scanning team, which will be focused on creating “statistical 3-D models of human bodies, which it will then match to images and videos of people via deep-learning algorithms and other tactics,” the Journal reports. This will ultimately see a “wide range of commercial applications” for Amazon customers, the retailer says in its job postings.

As of late, Amazon has been focusing more and more on clothing. In addition to launching its own fashion brands in the last couple years, it’s also debuted Prime Wardrobe, which lets Amazon Prime subscribers select several pieces of clothing at once for delivery, and then return the pieces that don’t fit or aren’t flattering. If body scans were already in place, customers could potentially avoid those pitfalls.

But don’t think that this technology will suddenly materialize overnight. As Professor Susan Ashdown of Cornell University tells the Wall Street Journal, body scanning is “much more complicated than anyone imagines. How you hold your shoulders, the angle of your hips — everything feeds into how well your clothes fit you.” But if Amazon can crack the code, it could spell a brand new era in the realm of online shopping.

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