|Spectacles at IJCAI
Eye-catching and dressy spectacles were
designed by the Japanese company Paris-Miki at the AI Research Exhibition, part of the
bi-annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, in August 1997 at
The attraction was obvious: in an IT
world where people are scrambling to put their paper catalogs in databases with HTML
frontends, the system performed a complex real world concurrent enginering and sales
support task right in front of the stunned crowd.
Starting with a high resolution digital
photograph of the prospective customer, a computer vision component extracts face
features, the opto-medical data comes from the prescription, then a highly interactive AI
component kicks in and designs custom made spectacles that will satisfy the physical
constraints of the wearer, medical requirements, manufacturability and other mechanical
aspects, and finally the fashionable impact the wearer wants to convey to his or her
A few seconds' interview lets the
customer choose indicative notions, e.g. "classic", "business-like",
"smart". These notions represent points in a virtual multi-dimensional space of
emotions that the new spectacles shall convey about the wearer.
These notions in turn drive the
Artificial Intelligence kernel of the design system, which computes appropriate lens
shapes and colors. The knowledge used to cover the distance from "classic" to
the Bezier splines for the machining center was provided by the teachers of the Paris-Miki
design academy. The knowledge covers a wide range of design factors, including subtle
things like prevailing climatic conditions that influence lens colors.
A customer can review the proposed
product immediately: the computer renders the newly designed spectacles imposed on the
photographed face in virtual reality.
"The system is a big success
because it allows us to offer top-level service in every single store" said Ryuto
Fujie, EDP Manager of Paris-Miki, who visited IJCAI at the occasion. "The customer
gets an individually designed product without the extra cost for the designer".
Visitors, many of them AI researchers
themselves, expressed surprise that AI technology in the form of a Prolog based integrated
CAD/CAM system could design spectacles from medical information and computer vision input
in such uncomprimising quality.
They were even more surprised that the
system at the IJCAI exhibition is not a laboratory prototype but integral part of everyday
business in several hundred locations in Japan alone, in field use in numerous countries
in Europe, USA, Asia and Oceania.
The first system went online in the
boutique Mikissimes in 1994 in the Carousel under the Louvre in Paris and was an instant
The overwhelming results convinced top
management within weeks to equip hundreds of their world wide shops with the system. The
strategic use of Prolog technology to improve customer services proved
correct: sales soared, in only two years profits have
doubled. The company is now listed at the Osaka stock exchange.
IF Computer Japan Limited
5-28-2 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo 113 Japan