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ModiFace offers the ability to simulate trying on beauty products over live video.Handout

As the beauty industry experiments with new ways to incorporate technology into a very tactile product, one Canadian company is leading the charge.

ModiFace is an augmented reality outfit that creates tech specifically for beauty companies. Primarily, they’ve developed the ability to simulate trying on beauty products over live video. This technology is so in demand that, in March, cosmetics giant L’Oréal fully acquired ModiFace as part of its Digital Services Factory, which designs and develops new digital initiatives for L’Oréal’s 39 brands.

ModiFace was founded in 2007 by Parham Aarabi, an associate professor in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto. Aarabi was originally working on an application that could read lips when one of his colleagues suggested the technology could could have applications in the beauty world. “We created a website where you could replace your lips with Angelina Jolie’s, so you could get a sense of what different lips or different eyes might look like on you,” says Aarabi.

The website caught the attention of pharmaceutical company Allergan, which makes the dermal filler Juvederm, often used to plump lips. In the years to follow, ModiFace’s technology was employed by more than 80 brands, including Sephora, to give customers the ability to virtually try on makeup, skin care and hair care through websites, apps and in-store mirrors.

Although the company is now owned by France-based L’Oréal, Aarabi and the ModiFace team will continue to work in Toronto. “L’Oréal is a very innovative company,” he says. “There are a number of directions that we’re exploring and a number of ideas that maybe I didn’t have time or resources to explore. Now we’re doing it on a much larger scale.”

One of those ideas involves using data collected to better inform product development and micro-target recommendations on an individual level. Predicts Aarabi: “I think eventually that personalization will really be the future of the beauty industry.”

Aarabi never planned on going into the beauty industry, but the success of ModiFace has shown him that it’s a field with endless opportunities for tech innovation. “It’s very dynamic,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity for optimization. If you’re looking for an industry to make the biggest impact with technologies like AR and AI, beauty is almost as good as it gets.”


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