If there’s one consumer sector that makes the case for augmented reality, it’s the beauty industry.
Perfect Corp. is certainly not alone in letting consumers try on virtual makeup. It’s been locked in a heated competition with Modiface to dominate the fast-growing AR beauty sector. The latest shot over the bow came from the former, which made a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show last week for its realistic take on augmented reality and its new set of AI-driven features.
Its YouCam Makeup, part of a suite of apps that boast 525 million downloads worldwide, enables digital makeovers at home, social sharing features and real-time digital hair transformations. The app’s updated hair feature allows users to experiment with colors, from natural hues to funky choices such as purple or blue, instantaneously. The display offers somewhat fine-tuned precision, avoiding a flat, fake-looking image or the dreaded “helmet-hair syndrome” that less sophisticated software can saddle on unsuspecting women.
Another standout feature is the new “AI Look Transfer”: A woman can snap a photo of a makeup look in a magazine or advertisement, and then see the same look on her own face through AR.
That may sound like fun and games, but the AR cosmetics stand in for real products, which make true representations critical.
“For business, you need to do something for real, not just for fun,” said Alice Chang, founder and chief executive officer of Perfect Corp. “Then you can make a business model. [But] you have to make it true-to-real.” In this case, the business is to usher in a retail transaction for one of the tech company’s partners. Women can make themselves over, and if they like what they see, the app can take them to an e-commerce page, so they can buy the products. Brands include L’Oréal Paris, Estée Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, MAC Cosmetics and many others.
While no virtual experience can exactly replicate real-world results, Perfect Corp. has come impressively close. In addition to its advances in AR for hair color, its app can display lipstick in matte, glossy or even metallic finishes.
“The camera is 2-D, and using AR and AI technologies, we’re creating the image in 3-D,” said Chang, who uses artificial intelligence to drive the realism. Computer vision reads the image and prompts the system to adjust for lighting and skin tones, adapting the AR makeup accordingly. Just as the same blush looks different from one woman to the next, YouCam tweaks colors based on sun tans, yellowish undertones or other aspects of the subject’s skin. The app can also provide a visual assessment of its health and age, ranking spots, wrinkles, texture and dark circles. The data gets filed into My Skin Diary, which lets consumers review changes over time and see if that beauty treatment is actually working.
“This software is so advanced that, in less than 0.2 seconds, it identifies over 120 points on your face,” said Adam Gam, vice president of marketing. “It means that, when you’re looking at this, it seems like a mirror. It’s changing your makeup very seamlessly and very quickly.” YouCam Makeup can also make product recommendations and allows users to share makeovers on social media or try on their friends’ looks.
The tech tracks movement with precision, adding to the realistic feeling. “You know Snapchat — you move your head, and the AR flings off,” Gam continued. “It doesn’t do that here. It’s like a magic mirror experience.”
Like with in-store magic mirrors, which both Modiface and Perfect Corp. power for various retailers, YouCam Makeup’s mobile users can try on different looks without the hassle — or literal irritation — of repeatedly wiping off makeup and reapplying. The technology allows users to experiment, even discover bold new looks they might’ve been too timid to try otherwise. In that way, Perfect Corp. thinks of its technology as a way to empower today’s women.
As for tomorrow’s consumers, Chang offered a glimpse of her vision for the future of digital beauty: “Only AI plus AR can make dreams come true. [Someday], you can have a virtual beauty assistant telling you everything you need, your preference or what fits you best. That’s the ultimate goal. You need a lot of development, but that’s the ultimate goal.”