Most people would never trust buying glasses from a Web site. Pity the entrepreneur who tries to sell glasses online.
The online store Glasses.com has created some exceptionally slick, polished, useful software to address this problem. Its free iPad app creates a 3-D, photo-perfect model of your head — and then lets you "try on" thousands of different colors and styles of glasses and sunglasses. (Android and iPhone apps are coming.)
You hold your iPad flat against a bathroom mirror. The app's voice prompts you to turn your virtual head slowly from fully left to fully right; in a second step, you hold the iPad facing the mirror against your chin while it measures your face. You see it create a wire-mesh 3-D model, "Terminator"-style, and then boom: there's a perfect, photographic, 3-D model of your head.
Now the fun begins. You can "try on" any of 2000 glasses designs in the company's catalog. They're well organized by style, color, price, brand and so on.
Using your fingers, you can turn your head 90 degrees left or right. You can view four copies of your head on one screen, turning them in sync, to make it easier to compare glasses. You can even adjust how you're wearing the glasses; lift the earpieces higher on your temples, for example, or slide them down your nose as if you're peering at someone cute on the beach.
In a store, you can't wear your existing glasses to see what you look like with a new pair on; now you can. In a mirror, you can't see the side view of your head, either. And your entire online social circle can now give you feedback on your frames finalists, since it's easy to send images by e-mail or to Facebook or Twitter.
Now, Glasses.com is not, ahem, a purveyor of cheap eyeware. You won't find $US7 reading glasses or $US10 sunglasses here. The sunglasses, for example, range from $US50 to more than $US450 a pair.
Fortunately, Glasses.com offers an equally impressive try-at-home program. You can order four pairs at a time, wear them for a week and return the ones that didn't make the cut; the company pays all the postage both ways.
Without question, the Glasses.com app represents the state of the art in virtual style shopping. It's superb technology that really works and could save a lot of people a lot of embarrassment. Come to think of it, the world would be a better place if there were similar apps for other things that people should try on virtually before committing to; like hairstyles, tattoos and plastic surgery.
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