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Store Mannequins Mimic Shopper Movements [Video]

'Marionettebots' in the window of a store in Shibuya, Japan create a whole new level of interaction between window-shopper and display.

Daniela Walker
Daniela Walker on February 14, 2013. @emptyofpocket

Remember that movie Mannequin, with Kim Cattrall before she put the sex in Sex and the City? She plays a mannequin who comes to life. The plot is nonsensical and silly, but it did make one wonder what happened in department stores at night. In Japan, a nation obsessed with robots, the mannequins may not come to life, but they sure act like it.

A Shibuya branch of clothing label United Arrows, installed a unique window display in November that was sure to distract any passers-by. The mannequins on display are actually ‘marionettebots,’ i.e. marionettes and robots. They are held up by 16 wires, run by motor and linked to a Kinect box so that whatever movements an outside viewer makes, the marionette mimics.

Initially this may seem to be just a gimmick, but it actually has valuable retail and marketing potential. Traditionally, one may walk by a shop, see a mannequin dressed and wonder about how the outfit may look on them. Walk by United Arrows, and you can make the mannequin change positions to see how the clothes move. It gives you a fuller view of the products, and may tempt you to walk inside.

Moreover, at this store, they used the marionettebots as promotions. They invited couples to stand in front of the male and female mannequins to test their ‘motion chemistry’ to see how in sync they actually were, with the promise of a possible discount depending on the results.

It is an innovative way to get people to stop at the storefront and encourage them to enter,  as long as they don’t fall in love with the mannequin.

United Arrows

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