YouCam app maker Perfect Corp. is joining forces with Ulta Beauty and Cosmopolitan magazine on upcoming online and in-store roll-outs of the former’s latest artificial intelligence and augmented reality technology features, executives disclosed at CES in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“Our partnership with YouCam will give us insight about how augmented reality experiences can complement the services we offer in Ulta Beauty stores,” said Prama Bhatt, senior vice president of digital and e-commerce at Ulta Beauty. “This represents a nice merging of physical, digital and emotional experiences — especially the ability for a guest to virtually try on hair color, with an Ulta Beauty stylist, as part of their in-store salon service.”
Perfect Corp. already powers beauty analysis and virtual try-on tools for partners like Target and Maybelline, embedding its tools in their apps, e-commerce sites and even terminals at physical retail. Its Web API, for instance, enables brands and retailers to offer the tools on their own web sites. Other partnerships bring a breadth of brands to its own YouCam makeup apps, which boast more than 700 million downloads.
Now it’s taking to CES to highlight Beauty 3.0, its approach to augmented reality and artificial intelligence. At its essence, the tech allows users to virtually try on different makeup looks, hair colors and foundation shades, a concept the company introduced to the tech sector at last year’s edition of the trade show.
For the 2019 event, the beauty tech company promoted its next evolution, a set of updates that uses AI to offer more options and personalization — including ombre and multicolor applications for its realistic AI Live Hair Color virtual try-on feature, cosmetics recognition based on magazine photos or even candid shots of people taken on the fly and a smart tool that can match skin tone to foundation.
Cosmopolitan readers will be able to snap a shot of an ad or editorial photo, instantly see the products the model or subject used, and digitally try on the looks or buy them.
“My goal is to deepen the connection between Cosmo and its readers by constantly making our content more responsive to what they’re craving right now,” said editor in chief Jessica Pels. “Because of who our audience is — Millennials holding the magazine in one hand and their phone in the other — that means bringing interactivity to our pages through projects like our partnership with YouCam, which brings a virtual try-on experience right into our pages.”
The beauty industry has dabbled in this sort of functionality before. But unlike previous attempts, Perfect Corp. says its recognition tool doesn’t require a QR code or other workaround to identify the looks. And, it promises, the feature works for both magazine photos and smartphone pics.
“People were like, ‘I see this thing on Instagram or Facebook,’ or ‘I’m on the subway, and there’s someone who has an amazing look’,” said Adam Gam, vice president of marketing at Perfect Corp. “So, let’s say you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, I love her look — I want it,’ right? And you snapped a picture of it…So then it’s using machine learning, and the computer is able to detect it.”
Put another way, the company’s computer vision promises on-the-fly recognition and recommendations, with no advance preparation. It also lets consumers apply those looks to their own faces.
“The cool thing is that you can get product information — What was the lip? What was the eye shadow? — and it gives you that ability to now transfer someone’s look and get the product on you,” Gam explained.
Lips and eyes tend to be focal points adorned in distinct colors. But the subtlety of skin tones are another matter. The company’s efforts to crack that challenge has led to a new skin diagnostic tool that uses machine learning to zero in on problem areas and offer product matches.
The skin analysis feature identifies wrinkles, spots, dark circles and other issues, estimates details like the user’s age and mood, and recommends cosmetics based on the analysis. It also provides a live split screen, for a side-by-side comparison of the customer’s face with and without the recommended products.
Skin tech appears to be a major theme at this year’s CES, with new efforts from a number of companies — everyone from start-ups to giants like Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal, which also owns beauty AR competitor ModiFace — leaning into the category.
If CES is a sneak peek of the innovations to come, then it appears 2019 is setting up for an all-out Face Race.