To those of you, like me, who have been wondering what Bold Rocket, the Capco consultancy spin off with the premises next door to Hoxton Hotel which are the last word in awesomeness, is all about, I think I may finally have stumbled across the answer.
Their stated mission, according to their website (also awesome) is to “make people’s lives a little more wonderful in any way we can”. Kind of like your best mate in a flat share, or an over protective mother? Not quite. But definitely capable of making you tea, draping a cool flannel over your forehead and watching the Eastenders omnibus with you the day after a particularly gruesome night out. On the proviso that you would do the same for them, of course, a kind of hipster pact with the devil. The Satanic Nurses, perhaps.
Or, and this is a little more to the point, they might let you borrow their indoor amphitheatre, invisible to passers-by on Great Eastern Street, but imposing enough to give someone foolish or brave enough to place a soapbox in front of it and start talking to a gathered throng of hip fashionistas about a “powerful, cloud-based visual search platform that leverages visual inference engines and object recognition algorithms”, the willies.
It would have done me, anyway, but I’m not Alex Semenzato, head of Biz/Dev UK/EU at Cortexica, the science / fashion / tech / mobile conglamerate, neither did I found the meet-up group FashTech, as he did, and faced with the kind of 3 pronged fashion version of the Spanish inquisition assault from one audience member, as he was, and with which he coped, to everyone’s amazement and quickly-nipped-in-the-bud sense of schadenfreude, admirably, I would have probably wet my knickers. And given the theme of the evening, Cortexica’s amazing new mobile clothing detection app, someone would probably have taken a photo of me to see if they could find a match for my soiled undies at Macy’s.
Fashion is cool, everyone knows that. Science can be cool? Bear with me. People using science to make fashion more accessible and particularly outrageous outfits easier to find and purchase, is definitely cool. Wearing said outfits and having to stop every five paces whilst an envious passer-by with a leather fixation photographs your boots? Not so much. These are the challenges that Alex, and Cortexica, are wrestling with.
Their latest product is called “Find Similar”, and, in case you haven’t found this article wordy enough already, try this out for size: “The visual search matching technology includes a unique, paralleled probabilistic computation, which enables our image search system to learn over time – just like the human brain. Leveraging machine learning, Cortexica’s “wavelet transforms” mimic the spatial computation performed by biological neurons in the primary visual cortex of the human brain on a large, machine- learning scale.”
Ok, ok, here’s what it does: “The software enables you to take a picture of a fashion item and find the exact or most similar item within an existing database.” Same website, different jargon. 5 years ago it wouldn’t have seemed possible, but Alex proclaimed from what, it was later confirmed, really was an actual soapbox (for those of you unfamiliar with the term, imagine a wooden crate about 9 inches high designed to house a “substance used with water for washing and cleaning, made of a compound of natural oils or fats with sodium hydroxide or another strong alkali, and typically having perfume and colouring added”), that it had come to pass. The future is already upon us. Like it, snap it buy it. Take it back if it doesn’t fit. Or just looked better on the person you saw wearing it.
This is the future of fashion, Alex told us, and when “Find Similar” cannot find an exact match, it will search through the database of whichever fashion outlet which has been wise enough to purchase this technology and incorporate it into their app, and find the closest matching article of clothing. Ruddy genius. Built by boffins at Imperial College London, developed in the US of A, and brought to you by Alex via a soapbox at Bold Rocket. In Shoreditch. Natch.
So what, I hear you ask dear reader, did the audience think of this “unique, paralleled probabilistic computation”. They obviously thought it was great, in the same way that Dr Spock is great, or a picture of a kitten standing on an automatic hoover wearing a shark costume is great, except for that, being sophisticated fashionistas themselves, they did at least try to apply the cooling flannel of faint praise to the product. Did it really work? Does it do Hollister (it doesn’t, because Macy’s don’t stock Hollister), how long does it take (a couple of seconds), is it, is it wicked, do you really like it (you do).
This is the most fun I’ve had sitting, or standing (but not bending) in a long, long time. The fashion world! It’s ahead of its time. Actually, I should qualify that. Cortexica is ahead of its time, the fashion world is dashing down the catwalk, tripping on its heels and grabbing Brooklyn Beckham’s coat tails in a desperate attempt to keep up!
At least that’s what I got out of the evening. If you want someone sensible’s opinion, contact Alex, @Alexsemenzato. Or Bold Rocket. Or the guys at Imperial leather College. I was just having a soaper time!