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StyleBeacon is a mobile application that provides an immersive, ambient shopping experience.

Target User Group

The main target user group is women >= 16 with smartphones that live in urban areas. They want a way to process a lot of information about where to buy clothes and what to buy. Currently internet shopping sites such as Amazon and Zappos don't provide a rich shopping experience; in fact, it may not be possible to provide such an experience online. Customers need to browse through boutique stores and try on clothes before they buy them. Thus StyleBeacon directs them to boutiques that fit their tastes. This is aimed also at middle-range consumers and not the very high end.

Problem Description

The problem is twofold: first, locating places to buy clothes. People not only want to know where a store is but what items they are currently carrying. This information changes fast, and is often not well publicized by the vendors themselves. Usually when people look for clothes, they go to a store they are familiar with and browse. This doesn't scale to a large amount of information about where to shop. Finally, less well known but unique boutiques are under publicized and hard to find. The second problem is finding what store is carrying a certain item. Suppose you see a very cool pair of sandals online. You have no idea where it came from, and the only way to find out is to browse through websites that only have weakly structured and unindexed data (e.g. Amazon, Zappos), an O(N) operation.

Problem Context and Forces

One of the problems is a user's behavior for when they shop. People usually set aside an evening just for this purpose. Changing their habits by suggesting places to shop in their ambient surroundings might be intrusive. The application would have to be "disabled" at some times otherwise it would get annoying. Secondly, some stores don't like it when people take pictures inside. Finally, the iPod touch doesn't have a camera (they should really fix this.) There some applications such as Yelp that have reviews for stores, but they have limited picture functionality. The main feature needed is the ability to both: Choose an image and see what stores they came from (relative to you), and choose a store near you and see what items are there. There are attempts to provide this experience but they are not mobile. For example the site Superfuture maps out places to shop, and the site Lookbook lets users tag where items came from.

Solution Sketch

Firstly, a map or augmented reality interface that points out nearby boutiques. When you hover over one, it shows you all the images that other users have submitted of that place. You can mark some as favorites to come back to later, or get directions. Secondly, a "favorites section" or "item stream" that shows full-screen images of outfits. Clicking on one shows you the source of the item (physically). Thirdly, camera integration to take pictures of things that you find (even if you don't buy them.)

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