business

`That Redhead On The Left? Please Terminate Her'

THE THIN LINE BETWEEN reality and digital fantasy has gotten even thinner in Vancouver, B.C. There, Western Pro Imaging Labs is using computers to rid family photos of former lovers and spouses, fix bad hair and closed eyes, and correct other flaws found all too often in wedding pictures and other shots that can't be retaken.

Western Pro's main business has been wholesale photofinishing, but the company's three-year-old digital-imaging unit came up with the idea of electronically fixing consumers' photos a few months ago, says Western Pro President R. Keith Guelpa. The company uses high-end Apple Macintosh computers, equipped with electronic scanners, that run software such as Adobe Photoshop. For an average price of $75, consumers can send in a print, have it retouched, and get back a similar-size print and a new negative with which to make additional prints. Guelpa calls his latest service Digital Reunion. By combining bits and pieces from a series of snapshots, Western Pro's retouchers can create a group shot of people who may never have actually met.

PRETTY SOON, THERE COULD be a whole new spin when people say they're "hanging the clothes on the line." Come April, the garment industry will go digital in a big way when its own electronic trading network, called RagNet, becomes available. Operated by New York-based Information Networks Inc., the network is designed to help textile makers, garment manufacturers, designers, wholesalers, and retailers do business with one another faster and more efficiently.

Today, if a garment maker wants to unload surplus bolts of fabric, for example, it usually sells the goods to a broker, who in turn resells them to another company. With RagNet, the manufacturer could cut out the middleman and offer the goods for sale--presumably at a better price--directly on RagNet's global electronic bulletin board.

What's more, RagNet's sponsors expect to reach corporate buyers at 700 retailers, including such chains as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Mervyn's. The network will enable the buyers to view high-resolution images of manufacturers' latest wares and clothing lines using the computers in their corporate offices instead of schlepping all the way to New York City to visit a Seventh Avenue showroom.

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