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04 January 2009

Idea: Bespoke software clothes to change the way the world dresses

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Locksmiths, Computer Scientists Say

Scenes from one of the proof-of-concept telephoto experiments using a new software program from UC San Diego that can perform key duplication without having the key. Instead, the computer scientists only need a photograph of the key. Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

( -- UC San Diego computer scientists have built a software program that can perform key duplication without having the key. Instead, the computer scientists only need a photograph of the key.

"We built our key duplication software system to show people that their keys are not inherently secret," said Stefan Savage, the computer science professor from UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering who led the student-run project. "Perhaps this was once a reasonable assumption, but advances in digital imaging and optics have made it easy to duplicate someone's keys from a distance without them even noticing."

Professor Savage presents this work on October 30 at ACM's Conference on Communications and Computer Security (CCS) 2008, one of the premier academic computer security conferences.

The bumps and valleys on your house or office keys represent a numeric code that completely describes how to open your particular lock. If a key doesn't encode this precise "bitting code," then it won't open your door.

In one demonstration of the new software system, the computer scientists took pictures of common residential house keys with a cell phone camera, fed the image into their software which then produced the information needed to create identical copies. In another example, they used a five inch telephoto lens to capture images from the roof of a campus building and duplicate keys sitting on a café table more than 200 feet away.

"This idea should come as little surprise to locksmiths or lock vendors," said Savage. "There are experts who have been able to copy keys by hand from high-resolution photographs for some time. However, we argue that the threat has turned a corner—cheap image sensors have made digital cameras pervasive and basic computer vision techniques can automatically extract a key's information without requiring any expertise."

Professor Savage notes, however, that the idea that one's keys are sensitive visual information is not widely appreciated in the general public.

"If you go onto a photo-sharing site such as Flickr, you will find many photos of people's keys that can be used to easily make duplicates. While people generally blur out the numbers on their credit cards and driver's licenses before putting those photos on-line, they don't realize that they should take the same precautions with their keys" said Savage.

As for what to do about the key duplication threat, Savage says that companies are actively developing and marketing new locking systems that encode electromagnetic secrets as well as a physical code. "Many car keys, for example, have RFID immobilizer chips that prevent duplicated keys from turning the car on." he says. In the meantime, he suggests that you treat your keys like you treat your credit card, "Keep it in your pocket unless you need to use it."

How it works

The keys used in the most common residential locks in the United States have a series of 5 or 6 cuts, spaced out at regular intervals. The computer scientists created a program in MatLab that can process photos of keys from nearly any angle and measure the depth of each cut. String together the depth of each cut and you have a key's bitting code, which together with basic information on the brand and type of key you have, is what you need to make a duplicate key.

The chief challenge for the software system, called "Sneakey," is to adjust for a wide range of different angles and distances between the camera and the key being captured. To do so, the researchers relied on a classic computer vision technique for normalizing an object's orientation and size in three dimensions by matching control points from a reference image to equivalent points in the target image.

"The program is simple. You have to click on the photo to tell it where the top of the key is, and a few other control points. From here, it normalizes the key's size and position. Since each pixel then corresponds to a set distance, it can accurately guess the height of each of the key cuts," explained Benjamin Laxton, the first author on the paper who recently earned his Master's degree in computer science from UC San Diego.

The researchers have not released their code to the public, but they acknowledge that it would not be terribly difficult for someone with basic knowledge of MatLab and computer vision techniques to build a similar system.

"Technology trends in computer vision are at a point where we need to consider new risks for physical security systems," said Kai Wang, a UC San Diego computer science graduate student and author on the new paper. Wang is a computer vision researcher working on the creating systems capable of reading text on product packaging. This is part of a larger project on creating a computerized personal shopping assistant for the visually impaired from the lab of computer science professor Serge Belongie.

As a computer security expert, Savage said he particularly enjoyed working on a project with computer vision students.

"UC San Diego is very supportive of interdisciplinary work. There are many opportunities for students and faculty to get their hands dirty in fields they may not know much about a lot at first," said Savage.
Provided by University of California - San Diego

1. With this advance in software measurement of photographed objects, a whole new industry or whole new way of buying clothes and other apparel such as hats, sweaters, scarves, ties, etc, becomes possible, making it more efficient, easier, less wastage and therefore, cheaper for all, from clothing maker to end customer.

2. Since the above software can measure accurately even keys in a digital photo, a simple adaptation of the software will be able to measure a person's major tailoring dimensions, such as waist, hips, chest, arm length, leg length, girth of neck, thighs and arms, etc. All from 1 or 2 digital photo/s of the person, with or without the person holding an ordinary foot-ruler to help in the measurements [the foot-ruler would make it even more accurate and easier]. For best accuracy, perhaps the person should hold the foot-ruler vertical in one hand, with both arms outstretched sideways, horizontal to the ground. Perhaps, the distance of the camera to the person photographed should also be indicated roughly, for best results. Another photo capturing the side of the person may also help improve accuracy. Since most digital cameras and cellphones also capture in video, the person could also capture a video of himself turning slowly 1 complete round and send this to the custom tailor online.

3. Cellphone and digital cameras are now uniquitous and a person would only need to take 1 or 2 digital photo/s or videos of himself or herself [and be able to use these for years unless the body measurements change significantly]. Most probably, this Measurement Photo/s should best be taken with minimum clothing on but this depends on the accuracy of the software and need not be so. Wearing tight-fitting clothes such as a singlet, t-shirt, shorts or leotards, etc, should be enough for the software to obtain accurate body measurements. Or, the men can wear just swimming trunks and women, bikinis.

4. Once this Measurement Photo/s is taken, it is easy to email it to a China clothing maker or New York or London Savile Row famous clothier or a Paris couture maker depending on what clothes you want custom-made, or from even a small bespoke tailoring shop in the next city or next continent. Thus, suddenly, bespoke tailors may again become a big industry, rescued from an extinction caused by cheap mass manufacturing.

5. The China clothing maker or Paris couture maker would probably have an online catalog of all the clothing designs available and you would indicate which design/s you want tailor made to your photo's measurements. Then you pay online and wait for the finished-tailored clothes to arrive in your mail. All the way from China or Paris, and probably much cheaper than if you had it tailor-made at your nearest mall, if indeed, anyone offers such a service, which is almost extinct. This could revive the tradition of wearing tailor-made clothes again and end the sameness and almost uniform looks of all our clothes. Further, because your clothes are custom made, you can specify your own designs and needs, such as special or extra pockets. For example, an engineer who often carries a meter when he makes site visits may want a special pocket located on his pants or shirt, of a certain size to nicely fit the meter in. Another technician may want to carry some specialised tools like calipers, short steel rule and marker pens, and all these could be fitted nicely into custom pockets anywhere on his clothing.

6. Even a Hollywood star may want to order a unique dress creation for the Oscar ceremony. For example, she can email her body measurements to a Paris couture maker and the Paris couturier then dresses up a mannequin or a real human of approximately the same size, in a few dress creations using just pins and tacks to show the design, photographs it and emails it back for comments and approval. Once the star approves and pays, the couturier then goes ahead with making the dress.

7. At a time when the China clothing makers are facing recession, this could create much new business. For example, orders can come from all over the world, from America to Mozambique. The clothing maker only needs to know what designs different cultures prefer, from the standard suit and tie to an African robe.

8. We may soon be able to wear truly-fitting custom-tailored clothes at mass-manufactured prices. In unique designs, too, if we prefer.

9. Perhaps the most significant change will be cutting down wastage. Currently, with the mass production business model, clothes are mass manufactured to certain limited sizes but this probably means that a huge percentage are never sold and probably discarded eventually. With custom tailoring, every piece of clothing would be made to fit the customer, so there would be no wastage at all. This results in huge costs savings for everybody, from the clothes maker to the end customer. Since China can make everything cheaper, it can thereby also make custom suits and clothes more cheaply.

10. There will be some communication issues when a customer emails his or her requirements in say, English while the China tailor may email back in Chinese. This is not much of a problem because there are free online machine translations like Babel Fish and WorldLingo, etc, which can instantly translate short text between many languages for free, with good enough accuracy of around 60-90%. Or, a paid service can quickly translate any emails for a small fee, since emails can easily be forwarded [and translated] back and forth anywhere in the world. Also, if the online catalog website is well designed, there will be many pictorial instructions and guides which can make the whole transaction quick and easy with minimum text instructions needed. Also, websites are easily viewable in different languages thus making the transaction quick, convenient and easy.

11. The above may be termed Bespoke 1.0 . Given that software development is now racing forwards, why not go further into what may be termed Bespoke 2.0? This software development of Bespoke 2.0 would adapt from such sites as Second Life, in which players create a virtual avatar of themselves and move their avatar into all kinds of online virtual situations paralleling the real physical world. For example, in Second Life, players can make their avatars go into a virtual clothing shop and buy some virtual clothing and even wear these new virtual clothing.

12. This means that Bespoke 2.0 software can easily be adapted from Second Life type softwares except that the virtual avatars must have exactly the same physical body measurements as their owners. Now, it gets interesting. As before, the customer takes some photos or videos of himself and emails it to an online bespoke tailor in Savile Row or Shenzhen. This tailor then runs the received photos or videos in the new Bespoke 2.0 program and quickly produces an exact virtual avatar of the customer, all body measurements exactly the same. Using this avatar, he then designs or adapts the clothes chosen by the customer or which the tailor thinks will best adorn the customer, like in the case of the Paris couturier. Ideally, the Bespoke 2.0 software should be so powerful, like cadcam, that the tailor, being no computer whiz, can simply pull, stretch, snip, create folds, tighten, etc, with just a mouse or a stylus or even touchscreen, to either create a totally new design or adapt from a template of the design chosen by the customer, to fit onto the body of the avatar. The tailor should also be able to easily scan a sample of any cloth into a simple scanner and the designs, colours and patterns of the cloth would appear digitally on his Bespoke 2.0 software for virtual 'cutting' into designs around the virtual avatar body.

13. Once the clothing is finished on the avatar, the tailor saves several images of it like jpg photos or even videos and emails them back to the customer for final approval. Then makes and mails the clothes to him.

14. The Bespoke 2.0 software will possibly create a new, intermediate industry of clothing designers or adapters who are good at using this software and have some fashion design talent. These can take orders from customers who trust their fashion design sense and are willing to pay for it. These fashion designers would operate locally, in every mall, for example, and provide a very personal service much like an interior decorator. Many customers may not like to transact and deal online with a tailor far away but would prefer a living, breathing human to talk with, discuss fashion designs with and come back next week to check the final designs. After approving the final design, the design can then be emailed to Shenzhen and the finished clothes mailed back. This would be a viable industry, much like the interior decorator industry. The tailor, on the other hand, would be only too happy not to have to engage in endless discussions and emails or phone calls with the customer. Or to struggle with abstruse computer software. Thus, a local industry would be created, employing local fashion designers talking with local customers and understanding their tastes and needs, for future repeat orders and referrals business. Only the final tailoring need be done elsewhere, in the cheapest place, probably China.

15. If all this comes true, we are looking at a world in which everyone could be wearing unique clothes, and the current uniform, same, mass-manufactured clothes will all be history.

16. This is my New Year gift for 2009.