Marc Rey

Shiseido has acquired artificial intelligence company Giaran Inc. as it ramps up personalization efforts.

Giaran uses AI technology including computer vision, big data and augmented reality to create deep learning, data mining and predictive modeling algorithms. The technology results in things like virtual makeup try-on, tutorials, color-matching, personalized recommendations, makeup removal (where makeup can be virtually removed to virtually test shades on bare skin), face-tracking and skin-tone detection. The technology can be deployed across mobile, tablets, desktops and mirrors.

Giaran was founded by Raymond Fu as a spinoff from Northeastern University’s Synergetic Media Learning Laboratory.

This isn’t Shiseido’s first technology investment — in January, the beauty company bought MatchCo, which uses a mobile skin scan to match foundation shades (that technology has been rolled into BareMinerals and will be rolled into other brands).

Adding Giaran helps Shiseido bridge consumer knowledge, research and development, product development and product performance, according to Marc Rey, chief executive officer of Shiseido Americas.

“They really connect all the dots in terms of technology, consumer knowledge, artificial intelligence, big data — it’s a wide [group] of competencies which are driven by technologies, but more than that, they make sure that connecting all those dots, they can deliver an outstanding consumer engagement,” he said.

The technology is expected to boost consumer intimacy, said Jill Scalamandre, president of Shiseido’s Global Makeup Center of Excellence, where Giaran will be housed. 

“We really want to know as much about the consumer as possible, and this technology allows us to learn more about her, physically, and to really help us develop product, transact with product … [and] will help us transform the whole consumer experience,” Scalamandre said.

Giaran’s technology will be run through all of Shiseido’s makeup brands, and through skin-care lines as well, Rey and Scalamandre said.

“We know she is shopping differently today, and we need to be where she’s shopping — a lot of the growth is coming from the digital space, but it’s also a question of allowing her to try and to experiment on her own,” Scalamandre said, noting that experimentation is something the Giaran technology is expected to allow customers to do. “While she’s doing that, we’re learning about her — we’re learning about different facial structures, different skin tones, different shade preferences — it’s a two-way street. It’s enabling us for product development and it’s enabling her to be able to experiment.”

“Through Giaran’s leading AI technology and our global innovation network, we’re continuing our journey of transforming how people discover and fall in love with products, creating deeply personal connections between our brands and consumers and building a path to growth with consumers at the center,” said Masahiko Uotani, president and group ceo of Shiseido.

“This is an extremely exciting move for Giaran at a pivotal moment in beauty,” said Fu. “Shiseido shares our belief that in today’s fast-changing market, continuous evolution of product and consumer-centric innovation are key to deepening relationships with consumers and finding new fans.”

The Giaran deal is something of an acqui-hire — in addition to the technology, Shiseido is gaining Fu, who comes with a network of Ph.D. contacts and will build out his team in the coming months, according to Marc Rey, chief executive officer of Shiseido Americas. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

“Fu and his team are going to keep us at the top of technology not only today, but tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow,” Rey said. The company will remain based in Boston, but will become part of Shiseido’s Makeup Center of Excellence, and work in conjunction with all other Shiseido segments, including global R&D and the Global Digital Center of Excellence, as well as MatchCo (which is also housed in the Makeup Center of Excellence).

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