AI, Immersion and Visualisation: Fashion at BEYOND 2020

Members of the Future Fashion Factory community have been sharing their expertise with creative businesses and researchers at BEYOND this week (Monday 30 November – Thursday 3 December) – the conference focused on research and innovation for the creative industries. 

In one of two sessions focused on ‘Data-driven design’ on Thursday 3 December, technology providers from our network explored different ways in which artificial intelligence (AI), immersive technology and visualisation are impacting the global fashion industry.

The session was chaired by Professor Stephen Westland at the University of Leeds, who leads Future Fashion Factory’s research in data-driven design.

Graphic for Beyond Conference 30 Nov - 3 Dec 2020 "Creativity Meets R&D"

Showcasing some of these innovations was Peihua Lai, whose PhD research is focusing on new techniques for data-driven colour design using machine learning and AI. 

Peihua highlighted projects such as Colourpedia, an AI-driven tool which supports fashion designers by generating a colour palette associated with a specific word. She also discussed how machine learning can refine existing tools that extract colour or other visual information from images, enabling creatives to access different sources of inspiration more easily. 

Using digital tools to support the fashion design process was also integral to Paul Jervis’ contribution. Paul, who is Director of Twelve Oaks Software, presented a new project in partnership with the Royal College of Art and the 3D Weaving Innovation Centre at the University of Leeds. Working with creative designers to identify pain points and priorities in their workflows, it will collect insight to drive the development of a digital design and manufacturing tool for 3D woven products. 

Screenshot of Adam Boyne's presentation at BEYOND 2020 - slide title 'Augmented Reality'
BetaJester outlined the benefits of different immersive techniques in training

Adam Boyne from BetaJester explored how immersive technology can be applied in textile industry training and education. Using examples from a range of sectors and companies from Walmart to Lloyd’s Register, Adam demonstrated that immersive technology reduces the cost and risk associated with training for complex processes and machinery, while ensuring employees actually retain more information. 

Immersive experiences can also enable a better understanding of operations across businesses and throughout supply chains. Daniel Norbury, Project Manager at Virtalis, spoke about visualising business operations and sharing information to provide context for decision-making. By opening up possibilities for collaboration and experimentation, he explained, companies can create opportunities for growth and development. 

Throughout the virtual conference, online interaction was a recurring theme for discussion. Numerion Software is innovating to support fashion designers and brands showcasing their collections online.  

CEO Michael King offered a sneak preview of Carbon, a virtual garment draping tool which is currently being developed into a cloud-based service. Using accurate simulation techniques gives a clearer sense of fit and helps to recover some of the sense of fabric drape, weight and texture which can be lost through traditional e-commerce and even through some immersive techniques, he explained.

Screenshot of Numerion Software virtual garment draping from BEYOND 2020
Numerion Software uses garment simulation to give asense of fabric drape, weight and texture

Michael’s demonstration built on Numerion’s Meet the Makers Showcase which was presented on Wednesday, illustrating how technology the company has been applying in the film and television industry can be transferred into fashion. Opportunities for consumers to virtually ‘try on’ garments could drive online sales and support better buying decisions, reducing customer return rates. 

Feedback from the session has been extremely positive, with questions covering topics such as potential barriers to adoption of immersive technology, the unintended consequences of bringing AI into fashion, and the different ways that visualisation can be applied across global supply chains.  

The Future Fashion Factory team can pass on additional questions or feedback to the speakers – please get in touch if you would like to find out more. Recordings of each BEYOND session will be published on the conference website in the next few days. 

We would like to say thank you to all of the speakers as well as our chair Stephen Westland.