What is Mobile 3D Scanning Technology and How it is Different from Traditional 3D body Scanners?

Mobile 3D scanning Technology

3D Body scanning technology has come a long way since its application in the apparel industry in the late 90s and with the commercializing of the technology, it has become more accessible to the consumer. This has led to a time when individual consumers can experience the process of converting him/herself into a 3D model, assisting designers and manufactures to bespoke garments or for efficient online shopping. The following article discusses more such technologies and how they are blending to our future demands.

What is 3D body scanning?

As the name signifies, it is the scanning of a real-world object in a non-contact way to get information on its dimensions and replicate a high precision 3D model of the same object in a 3D space for analysis and end-use. The object in consideration is a human body and the end-use of 3D scanning are to measure the human figure dimensions, make accurate garment fits, garment draping simulations, 3D body tracking etc. It works on a simple formula of fusing multiple pictures of the object into a 3D model which can then be viewed from any different angle.

At the inception of 3D scanning, it was highly likely to be used in the apparel industry and was used to fulfil the need for the emerging animation industry. But with the development and commercialization of the technology its use reached a much wider horizon with industries related to gaming, medical, engineering etc. and among that, the apparel industry. This sudden implementation has since then modernised this industry and has been helpful mostly in garment designing and in the garment development stages.

Application of 3D scanning technology

3D body scanning has been developed to a level that it takes seconds to scan a human body capturing the shape and size and generate its true-to-scale 3D model. The scanner deploys multiple-beam of light through the sensors which reflect and the discrepancies in the light are calculated to measure out the reflected surface. These reflected light on processing forms an image and multiple of these images are captured and combined to make a 3D model of the human figure. For a human figure, standardized measurements such as chest girth, shoulder girth, neck girth, bodice length, etc. are then derived from the digital twin and used accordingly. The model generated can then easily stored or transferred over the internet to work on the dimensions and create garments of exact measurements. It can also be used for size prediction, virtual try-on, pattern development and alterations, Measurement surveys and anthropometric characterization etc.

Commercial 3D scanning by Fashion Retailers

Commercial 3D scanning technology has started since 2010 with its implementation at various retail stores such as Bloomingdales, Selfridges, Levi’s, New Look etc. through body scanning booths. These booths worked by scanning the individuals and aware them of their body size so that they can make rightful decisions during purchase. This was also used to document the sizing date in that region so that more and more favourable garment sizes are made available catering to efficient inventory management. With the technology being relatively new, it was adopted only at a handful of retailers even with high industry demand. Since then several fashion retail brands have implemented 3D scanning solutions among which there is also an Indian brand Samshék. Some of the major suppliers of these 3D scanning machines are Human Solutions, Styku, SizeStream, Arte, Fit3D, etc. But the world has also moved much from the traditional brick and mortar store to online shopping and one of the biggest problems is that of the product return due to improper fitting.

Fig: 3D scanning booth by Size Stream

Mobile 3D scanning solution

The above problem calls for solutions that are so accessible that individuals can scan themselves at the comfort of their home and a smartphone comes to a great substitute for the high-priced scanning equipment. The scanning through mobile devices is the same as that by traditional methods and this has been made possible with advanced camera sensors and mobile processing or via cloud service. This has led to developers to come up with solutions in the form of software that can be accessed through smartphones, tablets etc. and be accurate enough to provide sizing details for suitable online purchases. There are some limitations on the mobile hardware used for scanning as better camera sensors can help in better scans but some cloud-based solutions can make up for that. Following are some companies who are using this approach to cater to market needs.

List of Mobile 3D Scanning Solutions Providers / Applications

1. Meepl: This Swiss corporation has made a unique ecosystem around itself in catering to the demands of 3D body scanning. Their mobile application can scan a human figure with mere 2 pictures and can create a highly accurate 3D avatar for size recommendations, virtual dressing rooms, made-to-measure services. They believe in empowering their clients by decreasing their return rates and the scalability of MTM services to allow retailers and brands to offer increasingly personalized products.

2. Fashion Innovation Agency: FIA in collaboration with augmented reality engine creator Reactive Reality and fashion designer Charlie Cohen came up with software solution Pictofit 3D which is a mobile application. This allows users to take a video clip of around 40 seconds to create photo-realistic avatars of themselves and is also able to capture high definition digital scans of garments for virtual try-on. All this is achieved through analysis by the AR engine and image-based modelling and AI. The app enables the user to virtually try on the fashion product before they can buy them online. With all this, they have also kept accuracy in measurements a priority to ensure that the garments fit the avatar as they fit the wearer in real life.

3. Body Labs: An Amazon acquired company has SOMA, a human-aware 3D artificial intelligence platform which enables business and developers to predict 3D human motion and shape from everyday photos and videos. Their goal is to use these high realistic 3D models of the human body for application in personalized shopping, autonomous vehicles, mixed reality etc. This technology is not available to the consumer but can soon be as Amazon dives more in fashion.

4. Nettelo: Their product Nettelo 3D is an AI-based 3D modelling engine through which users can scan themselves at home with their device and share their measurements with an online vendor’s website or business private cloud. It is also able to create a digital model of the body for analysis and measurement.

5. Element Pure, with their AI-based solution for delivering custom-fitted tailored shirts to the consumer just by creating a 3D avatar of the torso using pictures. The process for this is fairly simple and the person has to click 2 pictures from Element Pure app in two different positions and the app does its job to create the model of the torso. There is a video of the entire process and it is as easy as it can be. There is also an added option for the fit of the shirt which includes slim, regular or relaxed fit and option in the length of the shirt.

6. SizeStream: one of the most renowned 3D body scanning and measurement technology company has also come up with a mobile solution for a 3D body scan. Any individual can grab a kit which consists of a scan enabled bodysuit for accurate measurement, download the app and start measuring. The process only takes about 5-6mins and the help of another person for taking the picture to measure the individual.

7. Nepox is also similar to the above with mobile scanning application used to take measurement data from the customer from different sensors available. The data is then processed in the clouds to make the avatar and finally, it is sent to the customer’s phone for virtual try-on.

8. 3DLOOK also works on a similar process of creating 3D avatars from mobile apps itself. It can then help with virtual try-on. At present they are only providing the app by request. They are also partnering up with Gerber Technology to offer a fully-connected, digital remote supply chain experience. Contactless body measuring solutions for made-to-measure business launched by 3DLOOK.  

9. Along with this there are also handheld body scanners available in the market which can be integrated with a mobile device for representation of the 3D model. These provide much accurate representation of the human body due to superior hardware similar to that of traditional body scanning booths. It can be used as a personal device though it will take another person to scan. Thus it provides both the advantages of mobile and traditional body scanning but with the added cost of owning the scanner.

Fig: Handheld scanner by Artec3D

Limitation in Mobile Scanning

With so many technology options available along with the growing online market, mobile body scanning can become a thing. But it should be noted that not all mobile hardware can support the above solutions. A proper accurate scanning requires a depth-sensing camera sensor and a powerful processor to process and access the scanned information which only some flagship mobiles support. At present, Apple and its community are more committed to 3D scanning. Their 3D scanning LiDAR sensor in the iPad Pro which soon will be coming to the iPhone line and it can generate accurate, high-resolution 3D information on the object. There are several other hardware features which make their devices more than capable of 3D scanning. None the less there are options in Android in the likes of Pixel and Samsung devices.

Apart from that, there is an urgent need for industry-wide integration of the 3D measurements with the online retail market so that these measures can be useful across multiple retailers. This is only possible when there are some uniform standards for 3D measurements. Else this can create a lot of confusion related to awareness of the technology and accessibility of these applications.


For the online retail market, mobile 3D scanning will have a massive impact on their customers empowering them to see for the sizes and fits before any kind of purchase eliminating the hassle of a product return. It will also boost the market of bespoke products allowing customers for hassle-free measurement. With this, we can someday use our mobile device for scanning and with Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality have a virtual try-on at our home itself.

To conclude, proper implementation of mobile 3D scanning can bring a change to the way apparel shopping is done, increasing customer satisfaction and benefiting retailers with efficient inventory management but its success depends on how the consumer accepts and implements this in their day-to-day life.

  • https://www.verdict.co.uk/3d-body-scanning-fashion-future/
  • https://www.yankodesign.com/2019/09/12/this-fashion-brand-uses-a-i-and-3d-scanning-to-tailor-clothes-to-perfectly-fit-your-body/

Soumyadeep Saha

Soumyadeep Saha holds a Master's Degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, New Delhi. He is also a graduate in apparel production. His area of interest includes Quality Assurance and technology implementations in Apparel Production.

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