NIFT INDIAsize to take on Indian retail with 3D body scanning

Laser stripes passing through the body in a laser body scanner

National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), the premier fashion institute of India, has initiated the national sizing survey INDIAsize to build a road ahead for Indian retail industry. The anthropometric data collection in the revolutionary project will be done with the help of three state-of-the-art 3D body scanners. There are several discussions happening on the 3D body scanners, but few realize that the use of technology for sizing surveys is quite popular.

Countries like Italy, Germany, France, Korea, Netherlands, Japan, USA, China, etc. already have their own national sizing charts and used 3D body scanners for the collection of data on a larger scale. 3D body scanning technology is a fast and accurate method of measuring an individual’s body stats. The technology comprises of a scanner and software for measurement extraction. The scanner captures hundreds of images of the person from different angles (whether sitting or standing) and creates a non-textured image (in the form of data point cloud).

Psychological factors, where sometimes the person may not like to be touched upon for measurements, can be resolved with the help of 3D body scanner which is a no-contact process. Also, measuring through tapes might cause compression of soft tissues in the body, thus recording a low value (wrong value). While a 3D body scanner identifies hundreds and thousand of points on the body and accordingly takes a point cloud on the body. The scanner uses a series of sensors (such as laser, white light, infrared and millimeter wave) which passes through the person’s body to produce the body map in the form of point cloud which is a reliable visualisation of the human body. The applications of this technology not only include anthropometric surveys but are also useful for fashion, animation, fitness and health purposes.

There are different types of scanners available for sizing surveys, namely laser scanners, white light scanners and infrared scanners. In laser scanners, one or more eye-safe, structured, thin and sharp laser stripes are projected on the body of the human being standing inside the scanner. The laser stripes are moved up and down on the body to scan the body surface and a light sensor simultaneously captures the images. The laser stripes, when touching the body, bend and in this way, X,Y,Z co-ordinates of each point are determined by ‘triangulation’. The number of laser projector and sensors may vary according to the system. The scanner unit generally consists of a laser projector and a light sensor and they are mounted on the pillar. The scanner unit moves vertically along the pillar. Three to four such pillars are used to digitize the whole body of a human being.

Human body surface reconstructed with a point cloud

On the other hand, the functioning of white light scanners is the same as that of the laser scanners. The only difference being the optical white light stripe projected on the human body. The entire process can happen in a single step and the entire surface can be digitized at one pass. Multiple passes are done to increase the image resolution. It also uses the ‘triangulation’ method to measure each of the stripe and formulate the point cloud.

The number of pattern projectors as well as cameras vary from brand to brand. Usually two scanners are installed on the pillar, one of which scans the upper body and digitizes while the second one focuses on the lower part and digitizes it. As multiple scanners are used, the acquisition time increases. There are other scanners as well which work on the technology of millimeter waves and infrared waves. However, these scanners are not as accurate as laser and white light scanners. The optimal results depend on various factors such as accuracy of the measurement. Lesser the allowance in the measurement taken, more the accuracy. The 3D body scanners available provide accuracy of about 1-1.5 mm. Scanning speed is another deciding factor for the type of scanner to be preferred. The speed of the scanner ranges from 4 seconds to 40 seconds depending upon their types.

Other major sizing surveys at a glance


In 2001, UK started its National Sizing Survey which was a collaboration of the UK Government, 17 major UK retailers, academia and technology companies. Around 11,000 people were scanned in three regions employing three [TC]2 scanners. 130 measurements were obtained by scanning and 9-10 (depending on male or female) measurements were taken manually. Scanning was done in two postures (standing and sitting) for each subject. The survey results were published in September 2004.

Key findings

38% of women and 44% of men are either overweight or obese. Average female measurements are: height 163 cm, bust 98 cm, waist 86 cm, hip 103 cm and weight 65 kg; while male measurements are: chest 107 cm, waist 94 cm, hip 102 cm. Since 1952, average female measurement has increased in height by 4 cm, bust by 4 cm, waist by 16 cm, hip by 4 cm and weight by 3 kg. The tallest women and men are in the age group of 25-34 and 20-24, respectively. The heaviest women and men are in the age group of 45-54 and 55-64, respectively.


This study was conducted by [TC]2 and sponsored by US Department of Commerce and 31 sponsors. Body measurements of 10,001 (6,310 women and 3,691 men) subjects, grouped into gender, six age groups, and four ethnic groups were collected. All subjects who were scanned were offered an incentive of US $ 20 cash or US $ 25 gift. The study report with a breakdown of body sizes as per gender, age ranges and ethnic groups in addition to income, education, lifestyle and shopping preference, etc. is available against payment.

Key findings

Average female measurements are: height 162.5 cm, bust 104 cm, waist 86.5 cm, hip 109 cm and weight 71 kg. Black women are larger than White and Hispanic women of similar ages. Waists increase the most with age. Women’s hips are larger than their bust, so they are more pear shaped (for 60% of women). Men’s chests are larger than their hips. Analysing the SizeUSA data, researchers from North Carolina State University have pointed out that the women’s Hourglass body shape which traditionally is considered to be the most predominant body shape, actually exists only in case of 8.4% of the US women population and that too mainly below size 8. They identified four predominant body shapes in women of all sizes and ethnicities; however, some of these shapes are predominant in certain age groups and ethnic groups. The most predominant shape is the ‘Rectangle’, with 46.12% belonging to this category; the ‘Spoon’ shape was the next most common, with 20.92% being included in this category. The ‘Inverted Triangle’ and the ‘Hourglass’ were the third and fourth most predominant, with 13.83% and 8.4% classified under these shapes. Five other shapes combined to make up the remaining 10.72% of the sample. A further study by Victoria’s Secret also found that there are four bust shapes regardless of a woman’s size, geographic location, age or ethnicity.


The French sizing project ‘Campagne Nationale de Mensuration 2006’ was initiated by the French Union of Industries of Clothing (UFIH), supported financially by the CHALLENGE (administrative of the fiscal tax ) and carried out by the French Textile and Clothing Industry (IFTH). The project from 8 April 2003 to 23 April 2005 measured 11,562 people, from 5 to 70 years (in sitting position and upright) from 37 sites in all regions of France using two 3D Scanners.

Key findings

The average French woman is 162.5 cm tall and weighs 62.4 kg, while the average French man is 175.6 cm tall and weighs 77.4 kg. The average individual has grown taller between 1970 and 2006. There is a variation of 2.1 cm found for women and a variation of 5.5 cm found for men. 26% of the French adult population (15 years and more) are overweight and 8.3% are obese. More men are overweight (1 in 3) than women (1 in 4). The most widespread sizes are 37 & 38 for women and 41 & 42 for the men.