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AUGMENTED REALITY

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Beauty Tech Giving Beauty Industry a Facelift

In recent years, artificial intelligence and virtual reality have been adding an additional dimension to the beauty industry, quite literally. With consumers increasingly embracing and demanding personalized offerings and precise results, leading brands, such as L’Oréal and Shiseido are investing heavily in the space. Just as in many other industries, AI is revolutionizing beauty products and how they are conceptualized, created, and sold. However, it is a long road from being perceived as gimmicky promotions to improving customer engagement to becoming commercial go-to solutions.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been greatly integrated in our lives through different sectors and now the beauty industry is no exception. The use of AI, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) as well as complex beauty devices has revolutionized the way consumers perceive, apply, and select beauty products. Moreover, in the age of online retail, it enables companies to maintain a similar personalized level of service that would otherwise require a physical interaction with a beauty consultant. Technology is creating new experiences for the consumer, both in terms of beauty products’ features as well as purchasing process.

Beauty industry is also one of the most competitive sectors, with consumers always being on the lookout for new products and having low brand loyalty. Beauty tech seems to address this issue as well, as it elevates consumer engagement through enhanced personalized offerings, which in turn is a trend that has been driving the beauty industry for several years now.

The three main aspects of beauty tech encompass personalization through AI, virtual makeup using AR and VR, and smart skincare tools/beauty gadgets.

Personalization through AI

Across the retail sector, the key to consumer’s heart and pockets for a long time has been personalization of products and sales experience. Beauty industry is no exception. Consumers have been looking for the perfect skincare product that work best for them or the lipstick shade that goes perfectly with their skin tone. Moreover, consumers want this all from the comfort of their home. This is where AI comes in.

Through retail kiosks and mobile apps, AI enables companies to offer personalized shade offerings that are especially curated for the individual user. A number of companies is investing and capitalizing on this technology to differentiate themselves in the eyes of the consumer. One of the leading market players in the beauty industry, L’Oréal, has been one of the first companies to invest in AI- and VR-based beauty tech and acquired Toronto-based, ModiFace, in 2018. There are several different ways companies, such as L’Oréal, have incorporated AI into their product offerings.

Beauty Tech Giving Beauty Industry a Facelift by EOS Intelligence

Beauty Tech Giving Beauty Industry a Facelift by EOS Intelligence

Lancôme (a subsidiary of L’Oréal) has placed an AI-powered machine, called Le Teint Particulier, at Harrods and Selfridges in the UK, which creates custom-made foundation for the customer. The machine first identifies ones facial color using a handheld scanner, post which it uses a proprietary algorithm to select a foundation shade from 20,000 combinations. Following this, the machine creates the personalized shade for the user, which can then be bottled and purchased.

In addition to physical store solutions, AI-powered apps and websites also offer consumers personalized recommendations. In 2019, L’Oréal applied ModiFace’s AI technology to introduce a new digital skin diagnostic tool, called SkinConsult, for its brand, Vichy. The AI-powered tool uses more than 6,000 clinical images in order to deliver accurate skin assessment for all skin types. It analyzes selfies uploaded by users to identify fine lines, dark spots, wrinkles, and other issues, and then provides tailored product and routine recommendations to the user to address the skin concerns.

My Beauty Matches, a UK-based company, offers AI-based personalized and impartial beauty product recommendations and price comparisons. The website asks consumers diagnostic-style questions about their skin and hair type, concerns, and preferences, and uses AI to analyze the data and recommend products from 400,000 products (from about 3,500 brands) listed on its website. Alongside, the company runs Beauty Matches Engine (BME), which is a solution for beauty retailers using consumer data and AI algorithms to identify consumer purchasing and browsing patterns as well as their preferred products by age and skin or hair concerns. This helps retailers predict and stock, which product the consumer is likely to purchase, improving sales, increasing upsells, and providing a personalized solution to customers.

On similar lines, another app, Reflexion, uses AI to measure the shininess of skin through pictures and offers personalized product recommendations. The app claims to provide much deeper analysis than regular image analysis apps and provides additional features such as testing if products such as foundation are evenly applied. The app works by measuring a face surface’s Bidirectional Scatter Distribution Function (BSDF), which is a measure of light reflected on the user’s face.

Nudemeter is another such product, which uses AI to personalize makeup choices and foundation shades for a full spectrum of skin tones, including darker skins. The app uses color analysis and digital image processing along with its AI algorithms that ensure accurate color measurement irrespective of background lighting, pixels, etc. The app is currently being used by Spktrm Beauty, a US-based niche beauty company targeting shoppers with dark skin.

Virtual makeup through AR and VR

In today’s world where consumers prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes, AR and VR are enabling beauty companies to provide experience similar to that of physical retail to their consumers. AR and VR technologies-based apps let users experiment virtually with a range of cosmetics by allowing them to try several different shades, all within minutes and through their smartphone. This elevates the users shopping experience and improves sales conversion.

Sephora’s Virtual Makeup Artist enables customers to try on thousands of shades of lipsticks and eyeshadows through their smartphones or at kiosks at Sephora stores. While many such apps and filters have been in use for some time now, they are increasingly becoming more sophisticated, providing accurate color match to the skin and ensuring the virtual makeup does not move when the user shakes their face, changes to a side angle, etc. In addition, such apps also provide digital makeup tutorials to engage customers.

On similar lines, L’Oréal uses ModiFace’s AR and AI technology to provide virtual makeup try-on on Amazon and Facebook. The technology enables customers using these two platforms to try on different shades of lipsticks and other make-up products through a live video or a selfie from an array of L’Oréal brands such as Maybelline, L’Oréal Paris, NYX Professional Makeup, Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Urban Decay, and Shu Uemura.

Moreover, AR-based try-on apps helped brands connect with their customers during the previous year when most customers were stuck home and could not physically try on make-up. LVMH-owned Benefit Cosmetics has been investing in AR tech, and launched Benefit’s Brow Try-On Experience program (along with Taiwanese beauty-tech company, Perfect Corporation), which helps online shoppers identify the right eyebrow shape and style for them and then choose products accordingly. The company uses facial point detector technology for the program. The app witnessed a 43% surge in its daily users during April and May of 2020 (as compared with January and March 2020), when people were confined to their homes owing to the COVID outbreak. This helped connect with consumers in a fresh manner and increased brand loyalty. Moreover, Benefit claims that brows products have been their strongest category post-COVID outbreak.

One of China’s leading e-commerce players, Alibaba, also partnered with Perfect Corporation to integrate the latter’s ‘YouCam Makeup’ (an AR-based virtual makeup try-on technology) into Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall online shopping experience.

Smart devices

In addition to AI and AR based apps and solutions, smart devices is another category in the beauty tech space that is gaining momentum. A certain section of premium consumers are increasingly open to invest heavily into smart beauty gadgets that not only improve skin and hair quality but also help them quantitatively measure the results from using a certain product. While these products are currently expensive and for a niche audience, they have been gaining popularity, especially across the USA and China.

One such smart skincare device is L’Oréal’s Perso, which is based on ModiFace’s AI-powered skin diagnostics and analysis technology. Perso uses AI, location data, and consumer preferences to formulate personalized moisturizer for the consumer. The product is further expected to extend into foundations and lip shades. Perso is expected to be launched in 2021.

On similar lines, in July 2019, Japan-based Shiseido, launched its smart skincare device called Optune, which measures a user’s location-based weather and air pollution data, sleep data, stress levels, and menstrual cycles to create a custom moisturizer. Optune is available on a subscription basis and costs about US$92 per month.

In 2020, P&G also launched a premium skincare system, called Opte Precision. The skincare device uses blue LED light to scan one’s skin and applies a patented precision algorithm to detect problem areas and analyze complexion. Post this, the device releases an optimizing serum that is applied to spots to instantly cover age spots, pigmentation, etc., and to fade their appearance over time. The device has 120 nozzles and works on a technology similar to that of a thermal inkjet printer. The device targets a premium niche audience and costs US$599 with refill cartridge costing US$100.

In 2018, Johnson & Johnson’s drugstore skincare brand, Neutrogena, also launched a smart skincare device – a skin scanner, called Skin360 and SkinScanner, which uses technology from FitSkin (a US-based technology company). The scanner comes in the form of a magnifying camera that gets attached to a smartphone. The camera, which has a 30-time magnifying power helps scan the size and appearance of one’s pores, size and depth of fine lines and wrinkles, the skin’s moisture level, and also provides a score to the skin’s hydration level. The data is processed in a mobile app, which in turn provides a complete skin analysis and offers expert advice and product recommendations. While most smart skin devices are relatively expensive, this one retails at around US$50.

EOS Perspective

While AI and AR have been embraced by a lot of industries in the past, beauty tech is still in its infancy. That being said, there is a lot of potential in the space, especially with the consumer becoming increasingly comfortable with technology. While till recently, most technology-based products in the beauty sector were gimmicky and more for fun and consumer engagement, brands have started taking this space seriously, and started launching products that offer real sales growth opportunity.

Moreover, while AI and AR-based technologies have been accepted fairly easily by the consumers and industry players alike, smart devices is still a very niche category, with most products focused on a niche affluent clientele, who are willing to spend more than US$100 on products that may help improve their skin. There is a lot of potential for this segment to innovate, collaborate, and launch products at a more affordable price point in order to reach the masses.

Over the next couple of years, we can expect new niche players, exploring the benefits of beauty tech to enter the market in addition to greater number of partnerships between traditional beauty giants and technology companies. As personalization continues to be the mantra for consumers, beauty companies cannot look to ignore the space in the coming future.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Driving Down Healthcare Costs with AR and VR Technology

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Augmented Reality (AR) delivers digital components atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful and interactive, while Virtual Reality (VR) enables immersive simulation of real-life setting or environment. AR and VR have wide-reaching applications in healthcare, from treatment and therapy to training and education. Though AR and VR have promising applications in healthcare, are these technologies prime for widespread adoption? This will largely depend on how effective these technologies are in relation to its cost of investment. Some of the AR and VR solutions standout to bring in significant cost savings.

In 2015, based on analysis of 80,000 surgical cases (retrieved from 2010 National Inpatient Sample, USA), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine estimated that if all US hospitals increased the number of minimally-invasive procedures by 50%, nearly 3,600 complications could be avoided and hospital stays could be cut by 144,863 patient days, resulting in total cost savings of about US$288 million annually.

Augmented reality can offer higher accuracy

Despite such evident advantages, minimally-invasive surgeries are not as common as traditional approaches, because they require high precision and accuracy – and that is exactly where AR can be useful. For instance, Philips, a Dutch medical technology company, developed a real-time imaging solution which allows projection of high-resolution 3D image of the patient’s spine and a fully-automatic AR navigation system which guides the surgeon to plan the optimal device path, and subsequently place pedicle screws. The first pre-clinical study on the technology showed that the use of AR technology resulted in 85% accuracy as compared to 64% accuracy in case of conventional techniques. Using AR technology, doctors can perform minimally-invasive surgical procedures with high level of precision and efficiency, while minimizing mistakes and errors, thus reducing the preventable costs.

The first pre-clinical study on the technology showed that the use of AR technology resulted in 85% accuracy as compared to 64% accuracy in case of conventional techniques.

Remote mentoring and assistance delivered through augmented reality

Tele-mentoring is another practical application of AR which can bring considerable cost savings. In some complex cases, the locally available healthcare professionals are not skilled and experienced enough to carry out the procedure and experts from different cities or countries need to be called in to perform the treatment, and this involves a lot of time and costs. There are certain AR platforms that allow experts from remote locations to virtually join a surgical procedure. Using Google Glass or tablet, a real-time projection of the remotely located expert’s hands could be overlaid onto the local surgeon’s field of sight during the procedure.

In 2016, as a part of ongoing neurosurgical collaboration between Children’s of Alabama Hospital (USA) and Children’s Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Virtual Interactive Presence and Augmented Reality (VIPAR) telecommunication system was implemented at both hospitals to provide intraoperative assistance. The cost of setting up the hardware, software, and internet connection (for one year) was around US$2,500. This is far less in comparison to the cost of the American experts’ travel and stay in Vietnam. For instance, the expense of sending a team of three doctors from the USA to Vietnam for 14 days could total to around US$12,500.

Virtual reality could be an alternative to opioids

VR therapy is proving to be effective in providing relief from pain. Several studies have suggested that parts of the brain linked to pain-somatosensory cortex and the insula are less active when patients are distracted by an immersive experience created by VR technology, thereby reducing the pain. A clinical study by AppliedVR, a US-based company building VR platform for use in healthcare, suggested that VR therapy was effective in reducing pain by 52%.

This can prove to be a breakthrough in the field of pain management, and possibly reduce the opioid prescription. High-income countries such as the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia are struggling with the opioid crisis. Although, the cost of opioids is relatively low, the resulting addiction problems and drug overdose deaths lead to high societal and economic costs. For instance, the economic cost of the opioid crisis in the USA in 2015 was estimated at US$504 billion (85% of these costs were associated with fatalities resulting from overdose). This was equivalent to about 2.8% of GDP of the country that year. For countries such as the USA, where opioid epidemic is declared as a public health emergency, there is a high demand for non-addictive, less harmful alternative pain therapy such one delivered through as VR.

The economic cost of the opioid crisis in the USA in 2015 was estimated at US$504 billion, equivalent to 2.8% of GDP of the country. For such countries, there is a high demand for non-addictive, less harmful alternative pain therapy such as one delivered through VR.

Virtual visualization can reduce the cost of training

VR-based medical training through immersive visualizations is proven to be more effective than conventional teaching methods. In 2015, Miami Children’s Health System claimed that the medical professionals could retain as much as 80% of the information from a VR training session, compared to 20% retention level with traditional teaching methods.

VR can also help to significantly reduce medical training costs. For instance, elderly care facilities in the USA spend on average US$3,000 per employee to teach tracheal insertion through traditional methods; however, Next Galaxy, a US-based company, developed a VR software that will bring down the cost of training per employee to US$40. This VR software uses leap motion force feedback technology which enables the medical professionals to sense when the procedure is going wrong. As a result, this tool can create a realistic scenario, and medical professionals can have nearly hands-on experience of performing the procedure in a safe and controlled training environment, without risking the life of a patient, thus saving costs incurred in potential litigations.

EOS Perspective

AR and VR are among the next-generation technologies with the potential to transform healthcare. There is a consensus amongst analysts that a healthy growth of the global AR and VR in healthcare market can be expected over the coming years. For instance, a research company MarketsandMarkets estimated the market size at US$769.2 million in 2017, with forecast growth at a CAGR of 36.6% to reach US$4,997.9 million by 2023. Similarly, another research firm, Key Market Insights, expects the market to reach to US$5.6 billion by 2022. Several clinical studies indicate that innovative techniques powered by AR and VR are more efficient and effective over conventional methods, thus spurring the interest of private companies and in turn, expanding the market space.

Though AR and VR technologies offer significant opportunities for cost savings, the cost of investment in such new and emerging technologies is also an essential point of consideration.

There is high uptake of VR applications that are compatible with consumer-grade VR headsets such as Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc. These devices have already reached mainstream use. Moreover, as the technology matures, the competition is increasing, further driving down the price of the devices; for instance, in 2017, Oculus Rift (headset with motion sensor controller) was priced at US$399, half of its launch price in 2016. Increasing use of more affordable consumer-grade VR devices for healthcare applications will further bring down the cost of investment, thereby driving adoption of the VR technology in the sector.

Increasing use of more affordable consumer-grade VR devices for healthcare applications will further bring down the cost of investment, thereby driving adoption of the VR technology in the sector.

While AR headsets and smart glasses such as Microsoft HoloLens and Google Glass are still in trial version, some of the AR applications can be experienced on any smartphone/tablet without the need of headset or controllers, thus making it more accessible and affordable; for instance, EyeDecide, developed by OrcaMD, is an AR-based mobile app that simulates patient’s vision to demonstrate their actual medical condition. Such applications, which are priced as low as US$1.99 to US$4.99, can be widely used to enhance patient experience.

Healthcare organizations could leverage AR and VR technology to improve efficiency and quality of service and enhance patient care while cutting costs. Moreover, as these technologies are reaching mainstream, the cost of investment is expected to go down. Thus, AR and VR technologies are proving to deliver more value while reducing overall costs.

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