YNAP seeks to advance visual search and virtual try-on tech

Luxury e-tailer Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) is on a mission to drive the development of visual search and virtual try-on technology within online fashion.

The business has joined forces with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia to create a joint ‘lab’ dedicated to progressing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision in the fashion sector. Visual search and virtual fitting tech improvements are the initial target, but the focus will widen over the course of the three-year partnership.

Specifically, YNAP is collaborating with AImageLab, the university’s AI research centre, to establish a research programme that will be led by Professor Rita Cucchiara, who is director of the National Laboratory of AI and Intelligent Systems.

According to the e-retailer, the aim is to create “cutting-edge technological solutions” by processing the group’s huge archive, which contains over 20 years of data and tens of millions of images.

YNAP recognises that AI is growing in importance to the fashion industry, and that data analysis represents a key tool both for buyers looking to anticipate trends and for customers seeking more personalised shopping experiences.

Chairman and CEO of YNAP, Federico Marchetti, who recently announced he will be stepping down as CEO next year, said: “The collaboration with one of the world excellences in the study of AI allows us to explore the potential of technology in support of humanity in an innovative way.”

Meanwhile, Cucchiara described the new lab as “an excellent opportunity to test scientific results which come from the analysis and the study of images, which we have always researched”.

“This collaboration will allow to maximise the efficiency of YNAP’s internal systems, thanks to the recovery of useful information starting from images, using state-of-the-art techniques, and to go even further, using innovative approaches, such as virtual try-on, to create increasingly unique shopping experiences for customers,” she added.

YNAP’s Yoox fascia already offers consumers a chance to use a virtual styling tool via its app.

Last November, a new feature was added to the 'Yoox Mirror' to give digital shoppers a better opportunity to understand what products will look like when worn. Users can develop their own customisable digital avatar, and dress it accordingly to see how products look and fit prior to an online purchase.