My modiface. Image: author
I stared into a modded Kinect, and then into a monitor in split screen. The side on the left was my regular old ugly mug. On the right, my cheekbones was higher, my face thinner, my nose a little less knobby. I looked, eerily, more symmetrical—almost like an anime character. This was the newest foray from ModiFace, an augmented reality device that offers consumers an interactive platform designed to help them decide which beauty products and plastic surgery procedures they need to improve their looks.
Standing with the CEO in Las Vegas's Venetian, the requisite crush of CES lurching around behind me, I tried not to recoil too obviously. Even in a hall filled with dancing drones, uncanny valley-straddling robots, and surveillance tech, the implications of ModiFace were viscerally striking.
Yesterday, the company officially launched the product, which it calls the 3D Augmented Reality Makeup and Anti-Aging Mirror. It's intended for use in malls, beauty clinics, and plastic surgeons' and dentists' practices. Users stare into the camera eye, and add and subtract makeup, eye shadow, and facial augmentation. It's not high res, but it works pretty damn well.
"If you have this at a Clinique or a Loreal counter, your chances of conversion are much higher," said Parham Aarabi, ModiFace's founder and CEO, explaining how the tech helps clinch a sale. "So at retail stores, we can actually have something innovative, when someone walks by, they can see themselves with makeup or lipstick. It's good enough to get them interested, and the chance of them buying grows dramatically."
ModiFace already has a popular smartphone app on the market—it's on the cusp of 30 million downloads—that allows users to apply makeup and beauty "enhancements" onto their selfies. There's certainly something unsettling about the popularity of an app that appears to feed on a user's imperfections, and critics are sure to attack ModiFace for exploiting personal insecurities to help sell makeup, and, more worrisome, encourage wanton plastic surgery. Aarabi, for his part, says he's most excited about the potential Modiface has for the medical industry.
The beauty mirror concept is already taking off, however. Aarabi tells me that ModiFace's tech already powers virtual makeover programs for the likes of Allergan and L'Oreal. He says that he's got deals with 36 of the Fortune 1,000 brands, and has 200 kiosks already up and running. Augmented reality beauty tech is on the way.
"We actually did a trial run, and we had 124 percent growth in conversions if you had a mirror like this," Aarabi said. "It really does increase sales."