Developing the technology required to fully implement a VE system for marketing clothing is a long-term effort. One area for development is body measurement technology. Currently the concept is to have the customer don a body stocking and be electronically scanned. The linear and volumetric dimensions from the scan would be stored on a card that the customer would use when entering the virtual shopping space. When a customer's dimensions change, he or she could be scanned again. Cyber-ware has built and demonstrated effective full body scanners. However, this technology is produced on an individual basis and is expensive to acquire.
A second area of development is the technology for accurately representing material draping. A critical factor in deciding to purchase a garment is appearance: how the jacket hangs, how the folds appear, how the fabric moves when the individual wearing it moves, etc. Thus, the draping of virtual clothes on a virtual customer must appear real.
Other areas requiring technology development include providing accurate colors in the virtual world, giving customers the opportunity to ''feel" fabrics, and providing customers with a sense of how the garment "fits." All of these factors are important to customers in selecting clothing. Colors must be accurate so that different parts of an outfit can be matched; feel and fit are critical to comfort and style. Of all the research and technology development issues identified above, the most complex and long range will be developing the tactile feedback needed to create a sense of fit.
The aerospace industry is expected to be a major user of VE technology in the future. Companies such as Boeing and Rockwell International have long-range plans to develop VE systems that will provide all interested parties with the ability to view and interact with three-dimensional images of prototype parts or assemblies of prototype parts. Currently, both companies are using CAD tools to create electronic prototypes of parts in lieu of physical mock-ups.
Industry Efforts Staff at Rockwell International, through its Virtual Reality Laboratory (Tinker, 1993), are working on virtual prototypes and mock-ups; virtual world human factors assessment for proposed task environments; and training for manual factory workers, maintenance personnel, and equipment operators. These efforts are in the early stages of implementation. Proprietary software has been developed to read CAD data into a virtual reality database. The long-range goal is to provide the ability for multiple participants to work together in a shared virtual space interacting with high-resolution CAD data in real time.