As you browse your favourite brands online sitting in your PJs, you suddenly spot a hot lipstick color you simply must have. Of course, you would first try it on. And you do just that with the facial recognition software installed in your shopping app by the retailer. This scenario isn’t the stuff of dreams anymore. Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and facial recognition are already making this a reality.
While online retail is making it possible for consumers to enjoy on-door delivery shopping, the next big tech upgrade in the retail as well as the beauty sector seems to be AR, VR, and facial recognition. What was once sounding like a sci-fi plot is now a reality for several brands that depend on tactile experiences, whether you want to ‘try’ something on or you want to check out an item from different angles.
For example, a year ago, Rimmel London launched a free AR app named Get The Look. Customers can sport any make-up look they fancy, from friends to celebrities, on a trial basis. All they have to do is click a photograph of the look they want to try out. The app then matches the look and style with a match from Rimmel’s cosmetic library and then superimpose it onto the customer’s face. If they like what they see, they can place an order on Google Shopping.
Post Snapchat’s ‘lens’ feature of real-time face detection in 2015, the beauty industry has been leveraging on facial recognition software. In fact, in June 2016, L’Oreal Paris was one of the first beauty brands that endorsed a lens on Snapchat to promote its eyeliner, Silkissime. The fact that the beauty company launched a second time in October 2016, reveals the profitable nature of this tech.
L’Oréal owned beauty-focused AR startup ModiFace also came up with Virtual Artist, a Sephora app that makes it possible for customers to try on different makeup products digitally. Coty too showcased an AR mirror to try on hair colors at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Also, eyewear manufacturer Warby Parker is using AR to add a feature called “Virtual Try-On” to its existing app.
Apart from beauty, AR-VR is also being used by brands like Ikea, which introduced an app called the Ikea Place in 2017. The app helps users place furniture in their own space, virtually. Amazon too came out with its patented the Echo Look, an AR mirror that allows its customers to virtually try on clothes.
These apps and features may not always be a success though. Amazon’s Echo Look has received mixed reviews. Granted, these technologies are still a work-in-progress. Last year, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8’s face unlock feature was criticised for being fooled. Also, according to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, facial analysis programs revealed higher error rates for females than males, and for darker-skinned persons than lighter-skinned individuals.
Yet, one expects that the tech will conquer the glitches until we can shop for beauty products to cars and furniture without stirring out of bed.
Navanwita Bora Sachdev is a Columnist at Grit Daily.