February 24, 2014, 11:15 AM

eBay buys 3D graphics company PhiSix

The graphics technology virtually demonstrates how clothing would fit on a particular shopper’s body while she moves. EBay also responds to a scathing letter from investor Carl Icahn.

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E-marketplace and e-commerce technology provider eBay Inc. has purchased 3D computer graphics company PhiSix. The acquisition will enable eBay merchants and e-commerce technology clients to virtually demonstrate how clothing fits a shopper’s body as she moves around, eBay says.

PhiSix’s four staffers will join eBay’s “innovation and new ventures” team, eBay says. Neither company detailed the cost of the deal.

“PhiSix’s technology enables consumers to understand the fit and movement of clothes in an online shopping environment,” says Steve Yankovich, vice president of innovation and new ventures at eBay. “Consumers can experience the merchandise in a more efficient and impactful way, which we believe will drive sales for retailers and create a delightful experience for shoppers.”

The technology recommends sizes for a particular product after a shopper enters a few basic measurements, eBay says. PhiSix also matches her measurements to one of 20,000 body types (10,000 for each gender) to give an accurate, three-dimensional representation of her body, which it uses to show how the clothing would fit her. The computer modeling takes into account such factors as the fabric type and weight so that it also can show how the clothing stretches and sways when in motion. PhiSix allows shoppers to virtually model outfits during various activities, as modeled on the computer, like walking or swinging a golf club, eBay says.

By helping shoppers to more accurately determine how clothes will fit without trying them on, PhiSix will improve customer satisfaction and reduce the number of returns, eBay says. The first eBay clients likely to use PhiSix’s modeling will be major retailers that sell set groups of inventory on its marketplace, a spokeswoman for the company says. However, the company is also evaluating how to offer the technology across all its departments, including the marketplace, the eBay Enterprise technology and services division and even its payments subsidiary PayPal Inc., she adds, without giving details of how PhiSix might be used differently in each case.

In other eBay news, the company is the target today of a scathing open letter to shareholders from billionaire investor and eBay shareholder Carl Icahn. In the letter Icahn derides eBay CEO John Donahoe and board members Marc Andreessen and Scott Cook for what he claims are negligent and self-interested moves that put the future of the company at risk. In conclusion, Icahn called for the separation of eBay and PayPal. Otherwise, he says PayPal will lose its place as a leading payments technology provider.

Responding to Icahn’s letter, eBay in a statement today defended Andreessen and Cook, saying “Carl Icahn has cherry-picked old news clips and anecdotes out of context to attack the integrity of two of the most respected, accomplished and value-driven technology leaders in Silicon Valley.” The company also objected to the negative portrait of Donahoe and the idea that eBay and PayPal are better off divorced

“The board has been clear in its view that shareholders are best served by keeping PayPal part of eBay,” the online marketplace says. “The board regularly assesses all strategic options for the company; should circumstances change the board is entirely capable of evaluating alternatives for optimizing shareholder value.”

The statement also responded to Icahn’s charges of the board’s alleged incompetence, including its acquisition of Skype and sale to Microsoft Corp. 18 months later, a pair of transactions he claims cost shareholders $4 billion. Skype allows individuals to conduct video calls over the Internet.

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