Modiface 3D Hair Color Simulation from 2017

Ahead of CES in January, L’Oréal is pushing Modiface augmented reality and artificial intelligence work to new avenues, namely through Google Lens. The beauty brand recently started rolling out new Lens features that let consumers try on Garnier hair colors using their smartphone cameras.

The effort stems in large part to the beauty giant’s 2018 acquisition of Modiface, a beauty tech company known for virtual cosmetics and hair color try-ons.

To try out the feature, people need only aim the Lens camera at a product from Garnier Nutrisse or Garnier Olia. When the software recognizes the product and color, the Modiface system adds the overlay over Google Lens’ live selfie view of the consumer.

Google’s AI-driven image recognition tool started out as a downloadable mobile app — and it still is, at least for Apple iPhone users, who access Lens through the general Google app in the App Store. However, it’s worth noting that the feature was not available in the current version of the app on WWD’s test iPhone.

The move seems more meaningful on Android anyway, at least in the short term. Lens is integrated out-of-the-box in Android’s mobile operating system.

The scenario looks similar to Modiface’s pre-L’Oréal Samsung partnership. The deal integrated beauty try-ons directly into the camera of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus in 2018.

Now, with one integration, the platform has graduated into a wider Android user base. And if it does roll out broadly to iPhone users, expect the platform to accelerate quickly with the deep influx of new users.

The feature will work anywhere that has Garnier on the shelf, and as many as 500 Walmarts will feature in-store displays to explain how to use the feature.

L’Oréal sales have been on the upswing this year, and the company credits a lot of that growth to its digital efforts — at least for now, though the company’s new Prada deal will probably add more to the equation. However on the tech front, L’Oréal, which has been working with Modiface since 2012 as a partner brand, has seen how the technology boosts its online product sales.

Modiface’s AR work can be seen in places like Amazon and Sephora, as well as in stores. Go beyond L’Oréal’s walls, and it’s pretty clear that the larger beauty sector’s AR campaign has been ramping up for years, with no signs of stopping.

Perfect Corp. and its suite of AR-equipped YouCam apps are often mentioned in the same breath as Modiface, and new players are on the horizon, thanks to deals such as Ulta Beauty’s recent acquisition of two AR and AI start-ups.

What the next generation of this technology will bring forth is likely going to be sketched out in 2020 and 2021 — making this a pivotal time for the $532 billion beauty biz and its ongoing tech makeover.

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