3D Software

Amazon acquires AI human modeling startup Body Labs

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Manhattan Body Labs, a startup founded on technology developed at Brown University and the Max Planck Institute, has been developing a collection of API to make its products the most accurate way of modelling the human body.

Now with three different programs in its portfolio, incorporating varying degrees of machine learning and 3D scanning, the company has been bought by Amazon for an estimated sum of between $50 million and $70 million.

Crime fighting tech

Body Labs’ modeling technology was first developed by Michael Black, a professor in computer science and electrical engineering at Brown University and the Max Planck Institute. It was developed in response to a police enquiry that sought Black’s help to create a model of a perpetrator based on grainy CCTV footage.

By collecting data from thousands of human body scans, Black and his researchers were able to build artificial intelligence (AI) capable of predicting the most likely proportions of a person based on a their photograph, or in this case a video clip. With this, they created a 3D mesh of the body, which is used as a base for all of Body Labs’ API.

A basic size 8 mesh from Body Labs and the corresponding size measurements form high street brands. Image via Body Labs
A basic size 8 mesh from Body Labs and the corresponding size measurements form high street brands. Image via Body Labs

Body Labs Red and Blue

There are two strands to the API used in Body Labs products. The first is Blue API, capable of predicting the dimensions of the body using photographs and measurements. The second is Red API, that applies AI to 3D scan data captured by a high-end laser 3D scanner or even consumer-grade depth sensors.

More than just fashion design

Body Labs tech has been applied by the company itself in SOMA AI that allows users to virtually try on new clothes, and the MOSH app for playing with augmented reality (AR) features.

Hadoken! MOSH AR allows users to interact with computer generated characters. Image via Body Labs
Hadoken! MOSH AR allows users to interact with computer generated characters. Image via Body Labs

Generative design studio Nervous System, that was nominated for a 3D Printing Industry award, is one of the first companies to implement Body Labs’ Blue API for its own end product. The technology was used in the making of the studio’s 3D printed Kinematics Dress that has been inducted into New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Nervous Systems' 3D printed Kinematics Dress. Image via Nervous System
Nervous Systems’ 3D printed Kinematics Dress. Image via Nervous System

On the other hand advanced 3D scanning technology company 3dMD, that includes leading sportswear brand Under Armour as one of its partners, is one of the first major companies to apply Body Labs Blue API to its services. Since the year 2000, 3dMD has been developing a range of 3D scanners suited to specific applications such as the torso, thorax and hands. Its products now have applications across healthcare and research institutions around the world.

Movements and corresponding models of the body captured by 3dMD 3D scanners. Image via 3dMD
Movements and corresponding models of the body captured by 3dMD 3D scanners. Image via 3dMD

The main advantage of using Blue API in conjunction with 3D scanning technologies is that a point cloud, point-to-point data collected by lasers, is stitched intelligently – using advanced algorithms, rather than basic connect-the-dots repair.

Additionally, the data is standardized from person to person. The same point that represents the right shoulder of person A would correspond with the right shoulder of person B, in the same way nature intended it.

How will Amazon use it?

Though Amazon have yet to reveal details of how Body Labs technology will be used at the company, there are a few directions that could be taken. One vision is is that this team will be integrated into development of Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo Look assistant, that is already collecting body data using its integrated camera and is capable of already giving style advice.

Amazon's Echo Look assistant knows what you should wear - and where to buy it. Photo via Amazon, text added by Beau Jackson
Amazon’s Echo Look assistant knows what you should wear – and where to buy it. Photo via Amazon, text added by Beau Jackson

On a larger scale, Body Labs API could be applied to create a more accurate standard for the cut and fit of clothing across high-street stores, a welcome change for the majority of people that find themselves buying different sizes from each shop.

The latest major deal before Body Labs’ Amazon acquisition was a raising of $11 million in a series A round led by Intel Capital. The company initially started with seed funding of $2.2 million provided by the company’s co-founders, New York Angels and Firstmark that specializes in technology investment.

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Featured image shows stages of the Body Labs capture process. Image via Body Labs.

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