Is hyper reality the future of the beauty industry?
To say that technology has disrupted the traditional multi-billion-dollar beauty industry is an underestimation. Data-driven technology has long gathered information to reveal consumer patterns in ways a layman doesn't even recognise, and the retail industry around the world has been at the forefront of using this to excite and entice us to become more involved in the whole "shopping experience". What was only reserved for the gaming and entertainment industry, AR- and VR-driven technologies are now making their way to this region to make our retail experience more intuitive, customised and inspiring than ever before. What really are the beauty giants up to?
When celebrity makeup guru Charlotte Tilbury launched her brand new Beauty Wonderland at Dubai Mall last month, thousands of restless enthusiasts and fans rushed in to grab the first batch of testers on Day 1 of her celebrated Light Wonder Foundation and Filmstar Bronze & Glow. But the beauty entrepreneur instead introduced young shoppers to a new feat, revealing a ground-breaking 'Magic Mirror', that morphs your face to display Charlotte's 10 iconic beauty looks in seconds. No arm swatches, no skin tests and nothing that requires you to lift a finger, except to press a button and virtually live through a new beauty makeover within micro-seconds.
Another pioneer of AR mirrors, ModiFace, one of the leading providers of augmented reality technology to the cosmetics industry was recently acquired by global powerhouse L'Oréal to imbibe its augmented reality and artificial intelligence tools to its 34 brands, which include Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Urban Decay, Maybelline, and more. In addition, ModiFace, as part of L'Oréal's Digital Services Factory, will collaborate with the company's Advanced Research division while continuing to house its 70 engineers, researchers, and scientists at its Toronto headquarters. This is not for a stunt.
The biggest names in the industry are nothing if not fast learners. Back in 2015, when SnapChat made the infamous filters allowing you to swap faces and morph filters onto your face, or when Pokémon Go took over our social lives to get everyone running out and about to 'catch 'em all', cosmetics giants around the world sensed the brewing need for an immersive 'filter' to get the millennial consumer excited about shopping again.
"For those customers who like cosmetics, financial reasons or not, being able to simulate beauty products on yourself and do selfie touch-ups has no financial risk," Jennifer Tidy of Modiface told i-D magazine. "This type of technology is to empower the customer to want to purchase products, but it is also there to explore and learn more about a brand, have fun with the AR simulations and be educated on possible purchasing decisions."
Let's leave the technical mumbo-jumbo aside for a moment, and think about the lasting effect this tech invasion has on us as consumers in the modern world. Is filmmaker Keiichi Matsuda's 'Hyper-Reality' no longer a theory? As we grapple with the complexities of technological trends - the depth and detail of the sci-fi lores coming to life is something to think about.