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February 12, 2014

Can't Make It to Fashion Week? Virtual Reality Can Help with Topshop Experience

When television was making its first appearances, makers and users alike touted the benefits of being able to experience far-away places as though said places were right outside the window. Such benefits are still available, of course—improved resolution makes it look like a viewer is “right there”--but new developments may make virtual reality (VR) the next such “like you're right there” technology, and that's being put to work at the upcoming London Fashion Week show, as Topshop looks to put VR to work bringing the best of London to fashionistas who can't make the show.

Sadly, this won't be available at home—that will likely take the realization of things like the Oculus Rift headset or at the very least the Glyph headset—but for those who can get to London sometime between February 16 – 18, there will be an unexpected treat for those who go to Topshop's flagship store. A set of 360-degree headsets will be waiting, which come pre-loaded with footage taken right from the front row of Fashion Week, allowing those who use said headsets to experience the show almost as if said users were there.

This isn't the first time that Topshop has brought out the high-tech edge for its shows; back in 2012, the company got together with Facebook for a “social runway,” allowing users to place orders for clothes right on the runway, as well as the ability to photograph the show directly and share the clips. A partnership with Google+ in 2013, meanwhile, produced live interactive video for the show. But now, it's taking still another step up, offering a VR-driven look at one of the biggest fashion events of the year with some specialized hardware.

This is the kind of application for VR systems, though, that has been essentially in the making ever since VR first started coming out. Granted, originally, VR was little more than polygons, limited to clunky games, but the potential was certainly still there. Looking at what VR is capable of these days, though, provides a much more enthusiastic reception. It's not hard to see this technology being used in the middle of a Topshop store. It's not hard to see this technology making its way to people's homes, either, where it would be put to use as a means to present video in a fashion a television—even an impressive curved model like LG's new OLED television—couldn't begin to touch. This particular concept could quickly be adopted for other business models as well; imagine the best seat in any concert house sold a million times over for VR users. Consider factory tours of anywhere available from home. Magnificent scenery, vacations that don't even require leaving the house, possible from just a set of goggles and a decent Internet connection.

But the hardware has to get there first. There's no real reason this footage couldn't be made available to anyone, and with the right hardware in place, viewed accordingly. The hardware is rapidly under development on several fronts, though there's a discernible lag between hardware availability and footage availability. Still, once that gap closes, we'll likely see a lot more like Topshop's promotion going on, and actually brought into users' homes, too. Just like television did.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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