Updated Mar 27, 2019

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Shimmy Upskill

An AI‑based training software game that prepares workers in apparel manufacturing for dignified, secure work of the future in advance of automation

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Chisato Sakamoto

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Shimmy Upskill has been tested with 27 pilot participants in three countries: Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the U.S. Over the next year, our goal is to build an in-depth case study that focuses on specific learning objectives across three factories.

Focus Areas:

Workforce Development, Gender, Digital Inclusion & Connectivity and 11 MoreSEE ALL

Workforce Development, Gender, Digital Inclusion & Connectivity, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Methods & Learning, Soft or Life Skills, AI, AR/VR, Testing & Assessment, Technology, Supply Chains, Human Centered Design, Digital Development and InclusionSEE LESS

Implemented In:

United States, Bangladesh and Indonesia

United States, Bangladesh and IndonesiaSEE LESS

Lives Impacted to Date
Key Partners
Countries Implemented In
Funds Raised to Date
Verified Funding


A 2018 report by McKinsey and Co. indicates that simple garment production could be fully automated by 2025. If this change becomes reality, it will lead to mass displacement of garment workers around the world. The workers facing the highest risk of losing their jobs are women in the lower tiers of the supply chains. This situation will pose serious obstacles for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including decent work and economic growth, reduced inequality, and gender equality.



Shimmy Upskill uses AI to teach garment factory workers new skills that will help them transition to work less vulnerable to automation. With a simple, intuitive interface, the software trains users on digital pattern making, rudimentary 3D modeling, and transferrable job skills, such as using a tablet device. The training also benefits brands and manufacturers with their digital transformation goals, creating a workforce that is prepared for new technology and production processes in fashion.

Target Beneficiaries

Our goal is to prepare the 65 million garment workers around the world for the future of work in apparel. In particular, we are focused on helping female workers, who are often employed as sewing machine operators and helpers, to enter technical and mechanical jobs that are less vulnerable to automation. Shimmy Upskill also benefits brands and manufacturers by creating digital assets and workflows that are necessary for mass customization and personalization in fashion.

Mission and Vision

We want to disrupt fashion by embracing the workforce. New technology will transform the apparel industry, enabling a circular economy that meets consumers' needs quickly and efficiently. However, this change cannot occur at the expense of 65 million garment workers around the world. With Shimmy Upskill, we want to ensure everyone in fashion benefits from technological innovation by creating pathways to dignified, secure work of the future.

Innovation Description

Shimmy Upskill was built to benefit everyone in fashion. Our software runs on a simple, multilingual interface that is targeted at garment worker with little to no experience using computers or even smartphones. Shimmy Upskill guides users through the modules with both voice and written instructions as well as easily identifiable symbols and visualizations that are familiar to garment workers. The simple design makes the software scalable across different regions. Shimmy Upskill is also user-friendly because of its AI capabilities. We taught IBM’s Watson to recognize apparel vocabulary in Bangla and Bahasa Indonesian for Shimmy Upskill's speech-to-text recognition technology. In addition, AI is used to capture data necessary to create a database of files, nodes, and metadata for apparel design and production. These digital assets are often the missing pieces for brands and manufacturers aiming to fully digitalize their value chain in advance of mass customization and personalization of apparel.

Competitive Advantage

Respect for people lies at the heart of our innovation. While applications aimed at automation and digitalization exist in the fashion industry, they overlook the negative social impact of these disruptive changes on garment workers. In contrast, Shimmy Upskill grew out of our concern over how we can help workers most vulnerable to displacement coexist and augment new technological advances in the workplace. We thus used a human-centered design in developing our software, paying attention to the needs and barriers of garment workers with limited to zero digital literacy. Another advantage of our software is its application of gaming mechanisms. Instead of a conventional training format, we created Shimmy Upskill as a video game that celebrates learning and connecting with others. Through our pilots, we learned that our gaming format is key to effective learning because of its unique ability to make training fun and accessible to users who are new to digital technology.

Planned Goals and Milestones

We need funding to implement a year-long case study of Shimmy Upskill pilots in Bangladesh and Indonesia. For this case study, we are enlisting two factories from our initial round of pilots and one new factory to train their workers with Upskill on specific learning objectives. As part of the case study, we are improving the backend system to capture key metrics and to create new modules customized to the needs of our factory partners.
Funding Goal500,000
New Implemented CountriesBangladesh, Indonesia
Recruit1 management, 1 product manager, 1 in-country manager, 4 trainers
New FeatureCreate module for automated cutting and laser machines and 3D modeling


Mar 2019
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
Feb 2019
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
Oct 2017
Key Partnership
Aug 2018