Swipe Right to Meet Your Perfect Lipstick Match

While fairy tales may have introduced my younger self to the idea of magic mirrors, I never expected to come face-to-face with one as an adult.

So you can imagine my enchantment when I opened up Sephora’s new smartphone app feature at the retailer’s Eaton Centre location in Toronto and found myself virtually trying on different lipstick colours with the swipe of my finger.

Selfie-style, I hold my iPhone out in front of me. On the screen is my real-time reflection. Below, a scroller featuring thousands of colours. As I swipe to the left and right my lips instantly transform from bubble-gum pink to coral red to polished plum, like a kind of Tinder for makeup. What kind of sorcery is this?

The technology is called augmented reality, and it’s just another way retail brands such as Sephora are blending physical and digital experiences to cater to the customer of tomorrow. Launched Feb. 2 as part of the Sephora to Go app, the Virtual Artist feature enables customers to try on new lipsticks via photorealistic colour rendering technology.

The proximity-based interface means users can see themselves in real-time as they would look in different shades and styles. Endless palette possibilities are available with the touch of a button, minus the messy napkin and makeup remover.

Virtual Artist connects customers to lipsticks they love, and ultimately, products for purchase. Search lipsticks by colour family, or narrow down your hunt for the perfect pink or flawless fuchsia by filtering by brand. Add items to your shopping cart and checkout without leaving the app.

“We know our clients wish they could try on every lipstick shade that Sephora carries in their quest for the perfect one,” says Bridget Dolan, vice-president of Sephora Innovation Lab. “Our goal for Sephora Virtual Artist is to enable customers to try on thousands of lip shades instantly, whether they’re standing in a Sephora store or in their own bedroom. We want customers to experiment, play, and feel inspired.”

The app is powered by ModiFace, a Toronto-based skin analysis and facial visualization company. ModiFace’s facial tracking and facial simulation technologies are used by beauty brands from L’Oréal to Procter & Gamble.

“Our first consumer application was built purely for fun” says ModiFace founder and CEO Parham Aarabi. “We created an app that would swap people’s lips for Angelina Jolie lips. We put it out on the web and the next day the site received 100,000 hits. That’s when we knew we were onto something.”

Over the years, ModiFace gathered more than 100 million images, which were used to train its system to recognize different kinds of faces and improve the software’s accuracy. Prior to launching ModiFace, Aarabi worked on lip-reading technology for the U.S. defence industry at Stanford in California. “ModiFace was born when we realized we could use our lip-reading applications to simulate lipstick,” he tells me.

Aarabi predicts that in the near future, augmented reality will become a baseline expectation in the cosmetics industry: “You’ll go to the store and be able to virtually try on new products. You’ll go to the doctor and if you have a certain mole or scar you’d like removed, they’ll have mirrors that can help show you what you’d look like without it.”

This article originally appeared on the Toronto Star.

Amanda Cosco
Amanda Cosco is a Fashion Futurist and the founder of Electric Runway

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