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Blend uses generative AI to give you a personalized clothing guide

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Shopping for clothing online has liberated us from the need to brave the endless aisles, fluorescent lights and sale-hungry crowds of the brick-and-mortar retail inferno. But anyone who has found themselves two hours deep into a fashion rabbit hole, with nothing to show for it but 15 open tabs, four full shopping carts, an earful of YouTube clothing haul reviews and the gnawing anxiety of the overwhelmed, shopping online can feel like a chore.

Enter Blend, a U.K.-based startup that is using AI to cut through the noise and help shoppers find personalized product recommendations to suit their style, budget and size.

“The vast majority of retailers do absolutely no personalization, and in the instances when they do, they only personalize according to historic purchase data,” Blend co-founder Jemima Bunbury told TechCrunch. “When trends are changing relatively quickly, and people’s style does change over the course of their lives, it doesn’t stay relevant for a user to have such historic recommendations.”

Blend participated in TechCrunch Disrupt 2023 as one of the Startup Battlefield 200 companies. At the event, the startup launched its MVP — an app that will slowly open to the 2,000 users on Blend’s waiting list. After raising angel investment in April, Blend is now on the hunt to secure investors for its seed round. The startup will use those funds to build out additional features on the app and push for a full-scale launch.

Blend has already signed on over 250 retailers, including Net-a-Porter, a luxury retailer. The startup’s go-to-market strategy targets users aged 18 to 34, “very digital, native mobile-first shoppers” who are starting to define their personal style as they accrue disposable income. Blend is launching in the U.K. first and then hopes to move into the U.S. market.

“We hope that by attracting first the very fashion-forward, trendsetting crowd, we can then move more mainstream from there, but it’s much more difficult to go the other way round,” said Bunbury. “Ultimately, the vision is really to be the front door for every online shopping experience, and therefore, to be the largest-scale retailer because of that ability to personalize and only present people with the 1% of the internet that is most relevant to them.”

Generative AI we can get behind

Blend co-founders Bella Levin (left), Jemima Bunbury (middle) and Eva Piskova (right). Image Credits: Blend

The fashion industry has tapped the generative AI frenzy in a range of ways. Some companies are using natural language processing algorithms to improve the customer service experience. Others are using image generation to create new designs. There are also applications in production improvement, trend forecasting, inventory management and virtual try-ons.

Blend’s approach centers around transformer technology and recommendation algorithms, powered in large part by user interaction data. Transformer technology, which makes up the tech stack of popular generative AI models like ChatGPT, is a model for teaching computers how to understand and generate human language. In the world of fashion, this means it can better understand user preferences and make tailored clothing recommendations.

“The main thing that’s always important when it comes to AI is what data you are actually putting into [the model],” said Bunbury, noting that the founding team decided on an app rather than a web page in part because it’s easier to track a user’s data that way.

When the user opens the app, they’ll scroll through a feed that is a mix of product imagery and descriptions that have been pulled from different retail and e-commerce sites. Their feed will also feature short-form videos and product curations from influencers who can earn an affiliate commission on any sales they generate.

As the user scrolls, Blend collects data on how they interact with the app, whether they’re liking products, saving them, sharing with a friend, “or simply how long you’re looking at one product,” according to Bunbury. Blend uses all of that data to form a picture of the user, who has already pre-set preferences to size and budget. The more a user interacts with the app, the more personalized their recommendations will become.

On the back end, Blend is comparing products and users to get a statistical picture of which products will be right for which users. So, for example, let’s say there are two users who were actively using the app three months ago. User A pauses engagement with the app, while User B continues to engage regularly, and sees her feed adjusted according to new trends. Rather than let User A’s recommendations stagnate, Blend will use User B’s data to inform recommendations to User A.

“By tracking those cultural trends and how different people’s styles are similar or different, we can use that data to inform other people’s recommendations,” said Bunbury. “So the personalization gets more powerful the more users we have on the platform to base those off of and create cohorts.”

The AI model behind the app is impressive not only because it can recommend you the right outfit today, but also tomorrow, next week, next year. It’s dynamic, and it tracks how a user’s style changes over time.

Blend also helps users find the right fit for their body type, something retailers who have to go through expensive returns cycles appreciate, as well. Part of getting this right is allowing the user to set their preferences for what their size is for different body parts and determine what their body type is. But that information isn’t always reliable — brand sizing charts can differ wildly and most of us aren’t good at classifying our own body shapes.

That’s where the user-generated content enabled by the app kicks in again. The hope is that users will take photos of themselves in their new clothes and post them on the app, giving Blend’s AI engine and other users a diverse representation of what specific products look like on different frames. Down the line, Blend hopes to incorporate reviews and a voting system to help users better determine the right size for them.

Business model

The more a user engages with their Blend feed, the better the personalized recommendations become. Image Credits: Blend

The three moving parts in Blend’s business model are: 1) Shoppers; 2) Influencers; and 3) Brands.

Blend is predominantly trying to solve a user problem, but to do that, it needs to partner with influencers and brands, both of which stand to gain, as well. By partnering with Blend, both influencers and brands can diversify revenue streams and appear across multiple different channels in a very light-touch way.

For brands specifically, Blend could present as a powerful market marketing platform.

“For most brands, the key difficulty is getting your products in front of the right audience and having a risk-free way of advertising,” said Bunbury. “With social media advertising, yes, you can target fairly well according to demographics and user group, but even then it isn’t necessarily based on what their style is. Whereas we should have this incredibly granular style-specific dataset that will allow us to put the right brands in front of the right users when they are actively looking to be buying.”

Blend wins by taking a commission on sales from partner brands and retailers, which can vary depending on retailer, according to Bunbury.

The first version of the app will link out to a brand’s website to complete the transaction there. Future versions will allow users to get to the point of sale within the app for a more seamless user experience.

“There’s huge growth potential just in that, but we’re also aware that with the dataset we have and with our ability to put brands in front of users, there are also lots of B2B revenue lines in the future,” said Bunbury. “Things like advertising, data and analytics on trends, being able to forecast what sorts of products will be selling and at what quantities.”

On the consumer side, Blend says it might launch a subscription service in the future for additional premium features, like end-of-stock alerts, discount alerts or early access to brand products.



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Brain Cancer Cure Soon? New Treatment Removes Tumor In Woman Within 5 Days

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Researchers might have found a way to cure glioblastoma – a form of brain cancer – after a groundbreaking test. Experts from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) recently conducted a study wherein they achieved significant tumor regression in three patients. The study was conducted between March and July 2023 and it showed promise in treating glioblastoma which has no cure to date.

A step closer to treating glioblastoma?

In the preliminary clinical trial, the doctors used what they call the next generation CAR-T therapy and recorded dramatic results in patients within a few days.

For the treatment, the experts used the patient’s own cells to make them fight against cancer. The cells, after extraction, were modified to produce proteins on the surface called chimeric antigen receptors. These cells called CART-TEAM were then injected back into the patients to target the tumor cells.

After the treatment, a 74-year-old patient experienced tumor regression and it eventually became undetectable. In a second patient (72), the tumor decreased by over 60 percent by day 69 of the treatment and it remained so for the next six months.

ALSO SEE: Goodbye Cancer? For The First Time Ever Cancer Vanishes In All Patients In A Drug Trial

The most promising results, however, was recorded in a 57-year-old woman who had a near-complete tumor regression just five days after a single infusion of the CAR-TEAM cells.

Unfortunately, tumor progression was seen a few days later in all three cases along with some side-effects like fever and altered mental status.

Despite the results, study co-author Elizabeth Gerstner, who is a neuro-oncologist in the Department of Neurology of MGH is hopeful about success while admitting that more work is required.

“We report a dramatic and rapid response in these three patients. Our work to date shows signs that we are making progress, but there is more to do,” Gerstner said. The experts highlighted that removal of solid tumors using this therapy is limited because glioblastoma tumors are made of mixed cells which can evade the immune system’s response.

ALSO SEE: Getting A Tattoo? You Could Get Cancer; New Study Shows Ink May Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals



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Suicide Pod To Be Used Soon In Switzerland Amid Threats Of Impending Ban: Report

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A newly developed portable suicide pod, Sarco, is set to be used for the first time in Switzerland within the coming months. The device, which enables death without medical supervision, was initially unveiled in 2019 and functions by replacing oxygen inside the pod with nitrogen, resulting in death by hypoxia.

The organization, known as The Last Resort, believes there are no legal barriers to the use of Sarco in Switzerland. Swiss law generally permits assisted suicide, provided the person performing the act does so voluntarily. Florian Willet, CEO of The Last Resort, expressed confidence in the device’s forthcoming use, describing it as a “beautiful way” to die during Wednesday’s press conference.

The Sarco pod. Image: The Last Resort

However, there is opposition to this viewpoint. Recent reports indicate that the Swiss government may be planning to ban the use of the pod. Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code states that assisting in suicide for selfish reasons is punishable.

ALSO SEE: Swiss Company Builds First Bioprocessor From Brain Cells, It’s A Million Times More Efficient

Public prosecutor Peter Sticher of Schaffhausen, per Metro, has warned of potential five-year prison sentences for anyone who uses the pod. Sticher has also sent a letter to the pod’s creator, Philip Nitschke, cautioning him about “serious legal consequences.”

The Sarco pod works by depriving the user of oxygen, which leads to unconsciousness, and then releasing nitrogen gas to ensure death. While the creators of the device claim it offers a painless death, a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has raised concerns, warning that if the machine fails to induce unconsciousness, the death could be painful.

ALSO SEE: New smart mattress can change its surface temperature to wake you up

The cost to use the Sarco pod is reported to be $20. Prospective users will be subjected to automated questions as part of a psychiatric assessment before they can activate the device by pressing a button, after which there is no going back.

This development has sparked significant debate in Switzerland owing to the ethics and legality of such assisted dying methods.



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Check out NASA’s next space station. It won’t orbit Earth.

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As the International Space Station nears its retirement in 2030, NASA and its contractors are working full tilt on a new lab that will be whizzing through space much farther from Earth.

Right now, at a facility in Turin, Italy, engineers are stress-testing the core module for Gateway, a lunar space station designed to provide astronauts with a place to live, conduct scientific research, and prepare for moonwalks.

Though it may not look like much at the moment, the gunmetal-gray hollow cylinder, pictured above, is a critical facet of NASA’s Artemis moon missions. It will house life-support systems for astronauts, exercise equipment, and banks for scientific instruments. NASA has dubbed the main module HALO, short for Habitation and Logistics Outpost.

If this all sounds like sci-fi mumbo jumbo that is decades into the future, think again: NASA and its partners plan to send HALO and its propulsion element into lunar orbit on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as early as next year, welcoming its first guests around 2028. If successful, Gateway will be the first moon-orbiting space station.

“NASA and its international partners will explore the scientific mysteries of deep space with Gateway,” the agency says, “to return humans to the Moon and chart a path for the first human missions to Mars.”

Moving the HALO module

NASA has dubbed the main module HALO, short for Habitation and Logistics Outpost.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space

Maintaining a space station around a planetary body other than Earth won’t be an easy feat. While the ISS orbits just 250 miles above Earth and is only a short spaceflight away in an emergency, the moon is over 230,000 miles in the distance, with the quickest journey back home taking two to four days. 

Despite the challenges, NASA is getting lots of international help to bring Gateway to fruition. Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Japan are contributing key components to build the station, which will have a unique path around the moon.

Mashable Light Speed

Scientists considered many potential orbits before determining the best fit for Gateway. The station will fly in a so-called “near rectilinear halo orbit.” Since 2022, a small microwave-oven-sized spacecraft, CAPSTONE, has scouted out this path, which would look a little like a string of pearls hanging from a neck, if you drew it on paper. 

The unusual orbit is intended to be fuel-efficient and offer relatively close access to the lunar south pole, where astronauts will explore, look for water ice around the shadowy craters, and practice living in an extraterrestrial environment.

Why not a low circular orbit around the moon, one might ask? It certainly would put the station closer to the ground, but it would also require a lot more fuel to counteract the tug of the moon’s gravity, according to NASA. A distant retrograde orbit, on the other hand, while more stable and less fuel-consuming, would be too inconvenient for trips back and forth to the surface. 

But the near rectilinear halo orbit, a weeklong loop around the moon’s poles, is thought to offer the best of both worlds. The station would also continuously face Earth, allowing uninterrupted communication with flight controllers. 

The HALO section is just one of four modules where international astronauts will live and work. NASA has said the assembly of Gateway in space will happen in stages, beginning with the Artemis IV mission, slated for no earlier than September 2028, and finishing with Artemis VI. The expansion pieces will launch with the Orion spaceship atop NASA’s Space Launch System, casually referred to as the “mega moon rocket.” 

If you’re having trouble visualizing how this will all come together, take a look back at the new photo of HALO. Inside the module on the right side of the tube is where a cargo spacecraft and the European Space Agency’s Lunar View, a module with large windows, will dock. That crucial ESA part will have refueling capabilities for the propulsion module. 

NASA has given the propulsion module perhaps the least creative name in the agency’s history: the Power and Propulsion Element. It will harness solar power for Gateway’s subsystems and ionize xenon gas for the thrust needed to maintain the station’s orbit. 

Astronauts touring Gateway in VR

NASA astronauts see images like this when they’re touring the Gateway space station with virtual reality.
Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center

To the left on the outside of HALO is a docking port where SpaceX’s Starship and Blue Origin’s Blue Moon landers will dock during the Artemis IV and V missions, respectively. NASA administrator Bill Nelson has said using private vendors will help the agency buy down the technical risks and costs for the Artemis program, which seeks to use the moon as a springboard for eventual missions to Mars.

“I’ve said it before: We want more competition. We want two landers, and that’s better, and it means that you have reliability. You have backups,” Nelson told reporters last year. “These are public-private partnerships. It’s the new way that we go to the moon.”

After engineers finish stress-testing HALO at Thales Alenia Space in Italy, the module will go to Gilbert, Arizona, where Northrop Grumman, its builder, will finish its outfitting and prep it for launch. 





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