Window shopping of the future will be exactly that, with consumers able to make purchases from in front of the store, even after hours. Using 3D imaging technology, researchers in Germany are developing a system capable of recognizing facial gestures and hand position, so that shoppers can control a digital shop window display. The system allows for transactions, and can collect data on shopper trends without collecting personal data such as facial recognition. For those germ-conscious shopaholics who think public touchscreens are a conduit for nasties, this is the interactive shop window for you.

The proposed interactive shop window differs from existing touchscreen shop window technology by using a series of cameras to generate two stereo or 3D images that are processed by visualization software to control the display. One of the stereo images is of the face and the other concentrates on hand gestures. By looking at an object and making an inward sweeping motion, the window shopper can zoom in on a product, using another gesture to see what it would look like in another color.

“Interactive shopping has been standard operating procedure in the web for a long time. Now, we’re putting this technology into pedestrian passageways and shopping centers with the entire unit behind the window,” said Paul Chojecki, who is a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications. “There’s nothing comparable in Germany yet and today shops only use touchscreens in shop windows, if at all. But, you can interact with our interactive shop window without any physical contact, which is a benefit if hygiene is important to you. The system doesn’t store any personal data and only the coordinates of the body parts it recognizes are passed onto the visualization.”

The system does however store information on how many people stop in front of the shop window, and what they were interested in on the basis of what products and information they viewed. The interactive shop window is compatible with plasma, LED, LCD, projection or reprojection screens. Shop owners can also link the system with existing software such as content management or merchandise information systems, enabling access on the display to all stock within the store. Payment processing is left up to the individual shop owner, but can be integrated into the display system.

The system has been developed for use in shopping centers and retail shops, although Chojecki suggested it could be also useful in museums or at trade fairs. While the 3D recording system is only at prototype stage at present, it will be demonstrated at the CeBit Fair in Hannover, Germany this March.