By early 2015 there was enough existing technology to map bodies and keep track of the data. Personal step trackers were just the start of body tracking; whether it be cameras, scanners, sensors, we could keep track of our size, shape, and health with exact precision. Implications seemed limitless. Applying this technology with other emerging technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, will transform our understanding of how bodies relate to the world. 7 categories are in the midst of change:
- Body Likeness Imaging
- And Digital Proxy
The implications for clothing are deeper than they appear. With VR, your holographic representation might try clothes on, or you can try on your clothes with an augmented reality mirror or selfie camera. Additionally, with aggregate body data, companies can manufacture clothing that better fits customers and recommend clothes that are cut to suit the wearer.
But the real end-game is perfectly tailored clothing for every individual. Because these clothes can only be manufactured post order placement, brands will either have to reset customer expectations on length of time for product delivery or make massive changes to the supply chain. These changes might include 3D knitting at scale, on-demand manufacturing, or last mile manufacturing.
This will likely have a profound effect on brands, designs, repairs, and clothing replenishment. If every piece of clothing fits every person perfectly (including cut and style), then purchasing decisions will be based on pattern, design, and quality of manufacturing and material. Manufacturers will likely have offerings for every tier. AI will be applied to patterns + body type + desired style to determine what looks best per consumer. New computer generated patterns will leave very little room for designers, while a maker open-sourced design community might create additional patterns and designs. To put in real-world terms: the general public will pay for a subscription where price is determined by quality and quantity of clothing replaced by x number of times/period.
Yes, personal bespoke products are already a thing, but this level of data will allow them to get even more precise and commonplace: everything from furniture to equipment to job workstations.
EA Sports’ NFL Madden provides an entertaining case study for applying body data. Imagine your digital representation playing backyard football with your friends miles away. Football is just one example; a whole host of games are better played as your own virtual self. Imagine the fun of using your own height, weight, speed, and vertical jump in a first person shooter (FPS) game like Counter-Strike. Entire roles and games could be based around individualised body types.
Data will update as fast as our monitoring devices allow. Character stats like best mile, endurance, weight, response time, and vertical jump will be based on your own most recent run, your smart scale weight, or even based off of data captured on the spot as you move in front of a video camera.
A logical positive consequence of this idea is hyper-gamification of health and fitness. If your “personal character” improves as you do, naturally you’ll become more competitive the more fit you become. Imagine competitive gamers as the most fit Americans because their games demand a level of health beyond the average American. Gym culture will change along with these advances. Instead of sitting on a bike and watching TV, you might compete in worldwide races. Or you might compete against others in 360 degree courses through space, play cooperative strategy strategy games, or test your reflexes, problem solving skills, and other tasks that require not only physical exercise, but brain exercise as well.
Gamification of fitness is not a new idea and certain health-related metrics are really the first and most pervasive body data we have been measuring as a society thus far. Weight, BMI, sleep, steps and distance, and heart rate tracking are common measurable statistics. In terms of adoption, Fitbit, Apple Watch, Samsung Gear and others, are employing groundbreaking technology. More and better personal monitoring/tracking tools are in development.
One possible development is a shift to “push” instead of “pull” healthcare. Right now we go to the doctor when we’re concerned about symptom and we might go for an annual checkup. With these new personal monitoring tools, we’ll be prompted to address issues before we can even tell they’re happening. These devices might even alert our doctor to more serious issues.
Perhaps even certain issues will go to an impersonal tier 1 “certified healthcare professional” who has access to your data. Virtual health + personal monitoring could allow for a more tiered healthcare system with better systems of escalation ultimately providing better preventive care and emergency life saving measures. It would save money and give more people access to healthcare worldwide.
On a much lighter note, dating apps and services could provide body data stats as a profile option. Certain sites will likely include some sort of “verified” tag and require a real time connection to your body measurement data and health monitoring tools. As VR gains adoption, you’ll be able to interact with people’s digital likeness before in-person dates. You’ll also potentially have tools to monitor how you respond to them while meeting - did your body demonstrate signs of stress, excitement, happiness, attraction, etc.?
Usage of body likeness:
Digital body likeness will also be a monetized asset. Think of the implications for modeling and advertising: agencies will be able to use images to push new content without any further image capture since they have access to an entire digital likeness of their models. They will also be able to use a model’s likeness at any age, modify it, and use it post-mortem. This new paradigm will require stricter regulations and laws, as individuals will want to be able to control when, where, how, and why their likeness is being used and how they’ll be paid for its usage. You may see people sell their body likeness in its entirety (any age, any weight, any action for any purpose, in perpetuity) to a single company. This clearly has many worrying implications.
Identity verification will also change. Face recognition, retinal scanners, fingerprints and other markers are just the beginning of identity through body data. As the Social Security number continues to lose relevance and safety, entities like businesses, financial institutions, software, and others requiring an account will look to additional body markers to verify identity on a broad basis. Think of the Dubai Airport virtual aquarium facial recognition model and expand that model out to full market adoption.
The advanced rate of AI investment and breakthrough signals the advent of proxy bots. Think of the bot as your digital likeness: your bot will be something you invest in, making your bot “you.” Maybe it’s just a more rich and in-depth manifestation of personalizing existing AIs. Or your bot might be more of you than you can be: enjoy reading Dostoevsky but don’t have the time to read the whole catalog? Your bot will. And at this deeper level, the limits will become more important than the limitless; what you’re not will be just as important as what you are. Your bot will be able to accomplish things for you even up to budgeting purchases, returns, and scheduling meetings. Your bot could even act as your filter for relevant interactions with other personal proxy bots.
The case against
Not everyone is confident that exact body data will become an adopted data point. Here are some of the most common cases against adoption of utilizing body data so far and possible solutions:
Security: it’s too hard to protect the data and no one wants to assume responsibility.
- But the monetary gains and market edge will outweigh the cost to protect and insure.
Regulation - Maintenance and use of this data requires handling too costly for businesses to handle.
- Again, the monetary benefit and edge this provides businesses will outweigh the cost of proper data management.
- Certain business will specialize in managing this data similar to payment data and there will be some sort of reference number or token-like system.
Consumer confidence in proper use of data: people won’t feel comfortable giving this data to businesses.
- This is true for some consumers, and certain people will be guarded about who they give their data to, but the general public will happily give this data over. They’ll see a tool or experience they want, and they’ll hand over the data. There’s a lot of evidence regarding this exact behavior - Google Maps data is a relevant example.
Consumers don’t want to be known by their actual size.
- This is true, and there will still be places where people will be able to remain anonymous and untracked. However, the utility of this data for the general public will be much stronger than the desire to keep the data hidden.
Abuse of data. What happens when the wrong people get this data?
- This problem is here to stay. There’s already technology that allows a 3D body data generation based off a 2D picture of a body. Every picture on the internet is already available for abuse, and the risk won’t go away.
In the real world
Companies such as Body Labs, Size Stream, Meomi, fits.me, True Fit and other similar companies are already making this a reality. Even as early as 2015, Body Labs was making 3D modeling breakthroughs. Using machine learning, Body Labs used 2D body images and created 3D body models with a level of accuracy close to that of a full body laser scan.
In 2015 we were already monitoring quite a few health points through our wrist wearables. Smart gym equipment was just entering the scene and is now starting to gain adoption, tracking reps, sets, and limits. Even more health tracking, like mood, anxiety, and stress tracking is currently gaining traction and many consumers are using cell phones as a spirometers, a blood pressure trackers, and much more.
Dating services like MeetMe Outside and Once are requiring connections to body monitoring tools to use their services. Companies like Ministry of Supply are doing on-demand 3D printing of clothes. Retinal and face ID have been added for flagship phones’ ID and security verification systems.
Get ready, there’s much much more to come.
Amazon acquired Body Labs in September 2017. Rumor has it Amazon is already running internal betas for perfect body sizing. It’s not hard to imagine that they’ll eventually have custom/personal clothing available on demand.
With Amazon in the game, more “first moves” will be made, and other retailers will release offerings related to body data accelerating the process of adoption.
Insurance companies (and the medical community) will make a hard push towards personal health monitoring, tracking, and improvement.
More money will result in more and better devices for monitoring health stats. Many of these devices will double as for data collection beyond healthcare.
Usage of body likeness
Recently someone created an “AI” version of his deceased father that roughly recreated his father’s personality. In the not too distant future, these AI entities will be embodied with digital likeness and will allow us to remember our loved ones in new ways. And as digital proxies begin to enter the market, they’ll persist postmortem.
Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas and Nathalie Nahai. “What Would You Pay to Keep Your Digital Footprint 100% Private?” Harvard Business Review, 12 Dec. 2017, hbr.org/2017/12/what-would-you-pay-to-keep-your-digital-footprint-100-private.
Elliott, Annabel Fenwick. “Dubai Airport Is Replacing Security Checks with Face-Scanning Fish.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 11 Oct. 2017, www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/dubai-airport-replaces-security-checks-with-face-scanning-fish/.
Volokh, Eugene. “Opinion | Law, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 Mar. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/03/17/law-virtual-reality-and-augmented-reality/?utm_term=.f1d8ba69cb3b.