Body scanning fitting rooms come to area malls

They're calling it the fitting room of the future, an enclosed kiosk in a mall common area that shoppers step into for a free, full (and fully clothed) body scan. After 10 seconds, a shopper emerges, then gets printed recommendations on size, style and brand and a list of stores offering the apparel.

Me-Ality, the New York-based company behind "Measured Reality" body scanning stations, says the days of trying on four different sizes to find the best fit could be over.

 Inside the scanning station, a vertical wand moves around a person's body, emitting low-power radio signals - not X-Rays or radiation  - similar to, but weaker than, signals sent by a cell phone. The signals are bounced off the water in the skin and record 200,000 data points. Me-Ality then compares body measurements to garment sizing specifications and prints a personalized shopping guide with recommendations.

Since Me-Ality put its first size-matching station in King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania in 2010, the service has popped up at malls across the country and now can be found in 70 centers. In the Baltimore area, stations are now at the Mall in Columbia, White Marsh Mall, Towson Town Center and Annapolis Mall. The company, owned by  Unique Solutions Ltd., expects to expand to more than 300 malls over the next two years.

Retailers pay for each recommendation they get from Me-Ality. Claudia Schou, a company spokeswoman, says the service plays no favorites with brands. Shoppers are matched with apparel based solely on their measurements and directed to brands and retailers such as Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, Aeropostale, Diane von Furstenberg, Ann Taylor, Brooks Brothers, DKNY, Chico's, J.Crew, Express, Levi's, Ralph Lauren, New York & Company, Tommy Bahama and more.

Schou says shoppers like the service because, "It introduces them to brands they never considered buying before, but they went in the store and tried on the recommendation and, wow, it fit really well. They like the fact they don't have to go through and search through different sizes."

The women -- and men -- who get the mall scans can also create profiles on Me-Ality's website and use the sizing information when shopping for clothes online.

For now, shoppers can be matched with tops and bottoms only. That's shirts, sweaters, blouses, pants, jeans. The company is working on adding dresses, skirts and "intimates."


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