Program creates virtual fitting room
Tori Roeck | Thursday, September 6, 2012
Have you ever bought an item of clothing online that didn’t fit you?
Notre Dame graduates John Rocha and Rick Tillilie definitely have, and now they’re doing something about it.
Rocha and Tillilie created myFit, a program that uses Microsoft Kinect technology, a device mostly used for video game systems, to scan a person’s three-dimensional image into his or her computer and input it into a virtual fitting room.
Rocha said his company’s idea could have a big impact on online retail sales.
“Only 10 percent of clothing is sold online, and the reason is consumers lack confidence as to how clothes fit,” Rocha said. “It’s a huge problem for apparel companies in the United States.”
Through myFit, online customers can test clothing on an avatar of themselves, and areas of the item are color-coded to indicate whether it is too loose, too tight or just right at those spots, Rocha said.
“First we’re creating body scanners for retail stores, and eventually we’re releasing an at-home version, as well,” he said. “Eventually you’ll be able to create a virtual avatar of yourself with your likeness that contains all of your key measurements to help you make informed buying decisions while shopping online.”
Rocha said he and Tillilie came up with the idea for myFit while they were co-presidents of the Entrepreneurship Society at Notre Dame.
“My junior year, I had family that worked at Gilt.com … the popular flash-sale site. They had really good deals, and on a college budget, it was the perfect way to do any kind of shopping for clothing that I needed,” Rocha said. “But shopping for jeans was a huge pain because the jeans I was buying would not fit me at all like I envisioned them … It was a situation where there had to be a better way.”
Rocha said he and Tillilie presented the problem to members of the Entrepreneurship Society and developed the idea for myFit. They also met with computer science majors and engineers to figure out the technical aspects, Rocha said.
Rocha said he, then a political science major, and Tillilie, then a finance major, signed up for the McClosky Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship and placed second.
Rocha said the two won between $45,000 and $50,000 and a spot at the Plug and Play startup accelerator in Silicon Valley.
“It’s a 10-week program where we get an office space, access to mentors and whatnot, and they just try to help us launch our start-up,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to move to Silicon Valley, where we are right now, and to take advantage of the entrepreneurship contacts out here to allow us to move forward.”
Rocha and Tillilie will present myFit to possible investors at the Plug and Play Start-up EXPO on September 13th.
“Right now all of our time is devoted to the presentation that we give. All the start-ups that are featured there are allotted five minutes or so to pitch in front of 600 investors and tech entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley area,” Rocha said. “From there, there’s a big trade show … with different booths where you can try technology … It should be our coming out party.”
Tillilie said launching a startup post-graduation was an attractive career option for him.
“Startups are sort of en vogue right now,” Tillilie said. “It’s pretty low risk coming right out of college because you have a degree and traditional paths to fall back on.”
Rocha said Notre Dame students are especially qualified to launch their own startups.
“The Notre Dame education makes you really well-rounded, really outgoing, which really helps you do well for this,” Rocha said. “Every day is different when you’re doing a startup, so it takes a really well-rounded person and Notre Dame really prepares you for that.”
Tillilie said the Notre Dame network has been helpful in getting myFit off the ground.
“There’s a huge amount of mentors and advisors out there that are all part of the Notre Dame alumni that are more than willing to help us out, from little things like advice to even funding opportunities and partnerships with major companies,” Tillilie said. “It’s a huge network that I think is really the best out there.”