Exactly like Trying on in Store – but Available Anywhere

ZEISS develops avatar for virtual try-on of glasses

When you're selling high-quality eyeglasses online, you have the option to use a detailed 3D image of the wearer's face. This allows consumers to digitally see themselves wearing the new glasses. And even more importantly, the required precision measurements can be completed virtually. ZEISS makes it possible. Dr. Oliver Schwarz, Senior Development Engineer and Technical Project Owner at ZEISS, speaks about the avatar that provides the bricks-and-mortar optometry sector with important assistance online.

The word "avatar" was popularized by the science fiction novel "Snow Crash" in 1992 and finally became a household word when James Cameron's "Avatar" came out in 2009. ZEISS has established the avatar in optometry.

Interview with Dr. Oliver Schwarz, Senior Development Engineer and Technical Project Owner at ZEISS

Our avatar offers the optometry sector a level of quality that makes high-precision and detailed virtual glasses fitting possible and also enables purely virtual centration. In this respect, we can proudly say that we have been pioneers.

Dr. Oliver Schwarz

With the avatar and ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home, ZEISS is making it possible to order quality eyeglasses from home but still with the involvement of local experts. Is this avatar therefore a particularly significant innovation?

Avatars already existed before our in-house development. What's innovative is the way we approached the challenges that arose in our usage application. Our avatar offers the optometry sector a level of quality that makes high-precision and detailed virtual glasses fitting possible and also enables purely virtual centration. In this respect, we can proudly say that we have been pioneers.

How long has development of the avatar taken?

The avatar has been around as long as ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform. They both belong together. Avatar prototypes were available quickly, but it took a while before they were ready for the market. Fundamental innovations, such as the avatar as part of ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform, can easily take many years to complete. Although we purchased a few small software elements, the essential and in particular the critical components were developed in-house. The avatar for ZEISS Virtual Try-on was used for the first time as a prototype in 2017. We have continued developing it since then – and continue to do so.

What was the initial requirement that the avatar was developed for?

The initial requirement was virtual frame fitting in a specialist store. The desire for precise virtual centration with the avatar followed quickly. In the next step, we addressed the need for the ability to take the avatar home without losing any of its attributes. With the current avatar, the optician can now provide a true multichannel offer.

What makes the avatar special is its precision and ability to reproduce sizes accurately. It is so precise that even highly complex progressive lenses, which are individually adjusted to the wearer, can be ordered online. The combined innovative strength was provided by a team from a variety of different fields including mathematics, computer science, metrology, optometry, physics, design and electronics.

Was it clear from the beginning how the avatar needed to be developed? Were there references?

There were already large-scale solutions from the film industry where avatars are created with many cameras and elaborate lighting. That was a little too much for our application. Smaller-scale solutions involved walking around the person and taking multiple images, however the quality of this method isn't sufficient for our application. The avatar needed to be quick, easy and, most importantly, comfortable to create at the optician's store. Our aim was to create a detailed, true-to-scale avatar in a single capture.

Although the avatar is a digital product, it is created with the assistance of the ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform. This needs to be able to be set up and operated in a specialist store. We therefore had to set up our own development process.

How is the detail and dimensional accuracy of the avatar achieved? Is it even necessary?

We really did put a lot of effort into the mechanical design. Inside the ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform is a robust frame on which the cameras are very firmly fixed. It is this stability that makes it technically possible for the avatar to be so detailed.

Illumination is also extremely important. We need it to achieve high image definition. We also worked with the manufacturer to develop the processes for the cameras we use. In our case every millimeter count – unlike cameras used in surveillance, for example. Finally, our precision measurements need to be replicable and work in serial production.

And yes, this is necessary and essential as every detail counts. We need precise measurements so that virtual centration, for example, meets the ZEISS quality requirements. We also need it so that consumers feel comfortable when they see their own avatar and put on the frames which have the same level of detail.

Particularly stable, because every millimeter count – The ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform is activated just once for each person and creates a true-to-scale, precise and photo-realistic avatar with its nine cameras.

Why should a specialist store use the ZEISS avatar?

Among other things, the avatar as part of ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home makes high-quality online shopping for glasses possible. It thus offers an answer to modern shopping behavior. At the same time, the avatar is linked to the specialist store that it was created in, and thus also ensures local customer loyalty. Ultimately, we can give our customers in the optometry sector a tool that helps them stand out from the online competition, particularly when it comes to quality.

Thank you very much for speaking to us!

Infobox: How to set up your avatar for ZEISS Virtual Try-on and Virtual Try-on @Home

ZEISS Virtual Try-on stands for virtual frame fitting in specialist optical stores. ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home makes the virtual fitting of frames while out and about or at home possible.

  1. In the specialist store, an avatar – in other words a digital twin – of the wearer is created with the help of the nine cameras in ZEISS VISUFIT 1000 Platform. The initial measurement and capturing of the centration data are done by the optician within the system. After that the centration will work virtually using the avatar.
  2. Using this avatar, thousands of frames from the digital catalog can be tried on virtually on site and compared with each other. In addition, all ZEISS lens variants can be displayed in the frames.
  3. Given that the consumer would like to use ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home the avatar and the favorite frames are uploaded to a ZEISS cloud in encrypted and secure form.
  4. Using their ZEISS ID account, consumers can later log into the web app ZEISS Virtual Try-on @Home from any location and access their own avatar, including the favorite frames they have already selected, as well as to the store’s entire catalog of frames.
  5. Once the decision for a frame has been made, the optician gets a notification. 
  6. The optician can center the new glasses in their shop thanks to the dimensionally accurate avatar and the stored refraction values. They can then order the final glasses via ZEISS without having the consumer at the store again.
  7. The new glasses can be picked up at the opticians store, where they are adjusted to the wearer’s anatomy for a snug fit.

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