Using AI to ensure kids’ shoes fit perfectly
As the father of three young children, Alan Power is no stranger to the difficulties of buying children’s shoes. Having been too often frustrated with the buying process, he decided to use his engineering and mobile app development skills to create SizeWise, an AI-powered sizing solution that allows parents to scan the foot of their child using a smartphone.
“With such variation from brand to brand, shoe size alone is not enough, which is why SizeWise also recommends shoes that are ideal for the scanned foot,” says Power. “Two out of three children wear shoes that are too small for them, which can have long-term health consequences. However, because a child doesn’t know any better, he usually doesn’t complain about it.
Sizing issues can become even more acute if parents buy shoes online.
“Selecting the perfect shoes can be difficult and nearly impossible to accurately select a size for a growing child,” says Power. “From our research, we know that retailers see returns of up to 40% on online sales and that poor fit is the reason in 68% of cases. So that’s an unsatisfactory experience from all points of view.
Power first came up with the idea for SizeWise a few years ago and decided to explore it further while completing a Masters in Mobile Product Design.
Intensive development of the now patent-pending technology began just over a year ago when Power secured commercialization funding from Enterprise Ireland of €400,000 and partnered with a group of experts of CeADAR, the Irish Center for Applied AI based at UCD.
“We use a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision technology to create a 3D model of the foot that supports the SizeWise fitting app,” says Power. “My original proof of concept was well received as part of my master’s degree, but it was also pretty clear that it required ‘heavy work’ in terms of developing specialized technology that would consistently and accurately produce the measurements reliability that we needed.”
It took a team of five people from product design, UX, data science and engineering to bring the technology together and Power also consulted external experts in podiatry, shoe fitting and retail during the process.
Along with providing accurate sizing, the app also sends personalized reminders to parents when it’s time to check if their child needs a bigger shoe.
The app is free for parents, and SizeWise will make money selling its software as a service to retailers. They will pay a monthly fee to use the technology built into their e-commerce sites.
Power believes his precision will transform online shopping for children’s shoes.
“We know parents would be more willing to buy online if they could trust the fit and SizeWise brings old-school confidence and experience to the online environment,” he says. “As well as measuring the foot, the app will also identify which shoes from the retailers range will be suitable for that particular child.”
Power recently completed UCD Nova’s startup accelerator program and is now embarking on a €1 million fundraising round to strengthen its team and bring the technology to market. Customer trials are about to begin with an expected revenue stream starting in May. The company will spin off from UCD later this year.
Power will initially focus on the Irish, UK and US markets. However, the big plan is to go global and tap into the estimated $49 billion global market for children’s shoes.
“In general terms, we have competitors, such as brand-specific scanning solutions and others. However, the brands will only sell their shoes and the others focus on a very different demographic,” says Power.
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