German company autoRetouch, an AI-powered image editing platform, has announced a seed round of €3.2 million, with 140-year old European apparel retailer Breuninger leading the investment. autoRetouch, powered by artificial intelligence that is more sophisticated than the current image editing standard, is now available for fashion and lifestyle brands, retailers and creatives.
Editing lifestyle and fashion product images is time-intensive and often creatively unrewarding. Outdated technology that is still considered the industry standard leads to a cumbersome editing process in order to get fashion and lifestyle images retouched at scale. A standard, non-creative edit for example can take 5-15 minutes, from background removal to basic skin retouching for any photograph featuring human models.
Founded in 2020, autoRetouch uses AI to perform image editing operations, for example removing background or retouching skin. It’s both the tool and the taskmaster in one. Because of this and an API-first approach, it can work at any scale. Editing with autoRetouch’s AI enables any stakeholder (whether it’s the image editor, the retailer or brand) to get great product images faster, easier and cheaper than ever before while retaining full creative control.
Customers using autoRetouch have seen up to 90% cost savings due to the efficiency gains from moving repetitive work to AI.
“Today, we offer the first commercial technology for fashion & lifestyle brands to efficiently speed up editing apparel images in bulk,” said autoRetouch’s co-founder and CEO Alex Ciorapciu. “If you’re selling online, customer experience is everything. More and better product images drive higher conversion rates and lower return rates. Through autoRetouch, we’re unlocking a significant amount of value, currently lost due to inefficient image editing technology, by giving the editor more time to focus on the creative work that might be needed and moving the heavy-lifting to the AI. We’re also helping retailers and brands of all sizes maintain competitiveness, or even to start competing in a purely digital world.”
A large amount of all commercial fashion images use the ghost mannequin effect, meaning the model’s or mannequin’s body which the product is displayed on has been digitally edited from two separate images to be invisible or transparent. For an editor, that can mean 10-20 minutes of expert manual editing per image. With hundreds of sets of images, that could mean more than an entire work week focused solely on stitching images together. autoRetouch’s Ghost Mannequin AI, the one-click photography manipulation technology, merges two images, product and inlay shots, intelligently in seconds.
“As a retailer in a very dense and competitive online market, we have recognized the importance of a good technological solution to significantly minimize the time between the photo shoot and getting the images on the product sales page,” says Holger Blecker, CEO Breuninger. “When we saw what the autoRetouch team could do with apparel images, we knew they were doing something that was previously thought impossible in image editing.”
Advancements in computer vision and an outstanding internal R&D team have produced results that were unthinkable even as recently as last year in a very short amount of time. Because autoRetouch’s complex machine learning models are available through simple drag and drop, everyone can now take advantage of computer vision technology. As such, access to professional image editing, previously only available to people well versed in Photoshop, is democratized.
Recently autoRetouch has expanded its team of data scientists and engineers from a five to sixteen person team, doubling down on its R&D focus while also starting to build initial customer traction. “We’re building a deeptech b2b platform adhering to a product design philosophy that results in a b2c-like product experience,” continued autoRetouch’s Ciorapciu. “Very few other startups have built a similar level of R&D expertise in computer vision in such a short amount of time.”