Perfect Corp. helped make virtual makeup try-ons an essential feature for beauty brands and now the YouCam app-maker wants to do the same for fashion, starting with accessories.
The augmented reality developer made its intentions clear at CES this week, where it’s showcasing a new virtual try-on for wristwatches. The offering follows the launch of eyeglasses and earrings in June 2021.
What looked like an experiment into new categories last year now resembles a strategic expansion. According to the company, brands like Gucci adopted the feature for luxury eyewear, seemingly validating the move into fashion, and the latest update takes it further by moving the experience beyond the face. The effort and investment to make the watch experience work, with the same sort of quality as YouCam’s digital makeovers, point to a higher priority than a pet project.
Of course, AR for glasses, earrings, watches and other products already exists. But the experience varies wildly, from cartoonish aesthetics to glitchy movements.
Improving on that sounds simple, but development was actually a complex affair. For the beauty AR specialists, wrists and hands were new territory. Wayne Liu, senior vice president and general manager at Perfect Corp., explained that mapping and tracking faces is easier because they have more physical landmarks or distinctive features compared to hands. The team had to create a new tool and methodology, and the work led to AgileHand, an artificial intelligence-based technology capable of advanced hand tracking.
Now Liu believes the tech can unlock even more accessories.
“We announced eyewear last year and then we are going into jewelry,” Liu told WWD. “It’s not limited to your face or your hair. Whatever you can wear on your hands, watches, rings, bracelets — it’s all coming, because we have this AgileHand technology.”
Using physically based renderings of 3D hand models, the data scientists trained the system to understand a range of gestures, movements and other variables, such as skin tones, textures and hand and finger sizes. Tools like Enhanced Environmental Lighting join the mix, and altogether, they make the try-ons look more realistic. The watch can be sized properly for the wrist and naturally follow the arm as it moves or twists, while reflecting differences in ambient light. Just like the real world.
It’s easy to see how the team’s beauty experience informed the project. In the physical world, ambient lighting can change the way cosmetics look, so the YouCam app’s virtual make-up adapts to those conditions, too. The company also offers skin analysis, offering a baseline understanding of natural skin tones and textures.
For the beauty sector, realistic AR has become vital, prompting brands such as Estée Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, Madison Reed, Benefit, Bobby Brown, Fenty and many others to look to Perfect Corp. to deliver it. So do major technology platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Google.
The list of companies overlaps with ModiFace, the beauty AR competitor owned by L’Oréal, which works with some of the same companies, as well as others. Between these two chief rivals, there’s a lot of virtual lipstick to go around.
The partnerships may be important to Perfect Corp. in more ways than one. The company’s fashion foray might not have happened without them.
“Some of our beauty companies are either part of a fashion house or part of a big group, with both fashion and beauty. So that’s why it’s easier for us to get into the market — because the same group handles both,” Liu said. “They constantly asked us if we have anything on the fashion side.”
The inquiries aren’t surprising, given the recent metaverse hype. The concept, which reimagines the internet as a hyper-connected 3D environment, set off a race among all kinds of brands to launch immersive experiences and virtualized products. Even Perfect Corp. positions this watch try-on as a “metaverse-ready solution” for luxury timepieces. Until that futuristic version of the web arrives, users will be able to check out a growing list of jewelry and other fashion accessories. Someday, the options may even include AR apparel.
Nothing’s off the table for Liu. He admitted that virtual try-on for clothes is much harder to pull off. But he believes everything is worth exploring, especially if it means more data points that flesh out a holistic, 360-view of the consumer.
“We can look at your eyes, and probably the makeup you are wearing, and then we can recommend the right glasses,” he added. “At the end, everything will have blended together. So we’re going to look at the person, instead of looking at, ‘OK, this is makeup.’ ‘This is skin.’ ‘This is eyewear.’
“We can look at the whole person, and then come up with the best recommendation.”