TL;DR – Fashion and beauty goes beyond enhancing features in entrepreneurs’ universe, but experts won’t let it slide too quick.
The application of AR & VR in personalising cosmetics was put front and centre in one of the Fashion & Beauty lab sessions, moderated by Dr. Rofina Yasmin of University Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences. The session itself was more of a sharing one where panelists shared their experiences & thoughts on the topic, and some managed to touch on the lesser-known aspect of halal in the Malaysian cosmetics industry.
Dr. Chan Chee Seng from University Malaya’s Department of Artificial Intelligence kicked off his slot by giving a layman’s introduction to the face-recognition/detection technology. He previously had a hand in developing this technology for use in the defence industry, long before other industries co-opted the technology. His presentation included data on personal grooming, as well as cosmetic sales worldwide contrasting physical stores-based sales against their internet-based counterparts’ sales.
Surprisingly, physical stores pulled in higher numbers and the inability of online retailers in replicating the ‘try-before-you-buy’ testing component crucial to the cosmetics shopping experience was cited as a major driving factor. A live demonstration of a pure-face detection algorithm was also held, where the field dots in the software interface actually map facial attributes to estimate age; which can then be co-opted to recommend suitable products. Among the main takeaways from his segments were the importance of feeding diverse data to ensure higher accuracy in the face-detection algorithm, as well as how personalising the e-commerce experience is a major draw for customers.
The momentum was kept going by Sarah Chan of L’oreal Singapore – she presented an insider’s view of the AR & VR experience successfully integrated into cosmetics buying. L’oreal had been one of the pioneers of this technology in the market, having worked with Image Metrics to develop its Makeup Genius application since 2012 before the actual first rollout in 2014. L’oreal also extends the application of this technology to the various subsidiary brands under its portfolio, as seen through the MyUV Patch MC10 wearables with La-Roche Posay and Kerastase’s Hair Coach Smart Hair Brush. They also play a huge role in supporting further technological advances in beauty, and one of their more recent initiatives in the Asean region was the L’oreal Innovation Runway startup challenge which was held in conjunction with Singapore’s Innovation Week of Technology.
Dr. Zalina Zakaria segued into halal regulations & directives in Malaysia, with emphasis on cosmetics; keeping her segment relating back to the cosmetics industry. She heads the International Halal Research Centre in University Malaya, and works closely with related government agencies such as Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) while fulfilling the role. Various procedures, processes as well as prohibitions concerning Malaysia’s halal certification were fleshed out, and related concerns and curiosities were addressed – including the perception of halal certification being mandatory (it is actually considered an added element, particularly with cosmetics) as well as explaining the emphasis on the toyyiban aspect of Malaysia’s halal certification process. Malaysia’s halal certification system has the honour to be considered as the most comprehensive halal system, and is widely accepted in hundreds of countries; although differences in Islamic mazhab rulings worldwide make it hard for Muslim countries to agree on adopting a universal halal certification system.
The final two panelists were selected to highlight two different segments of the Malaysian cosmetics market: the large, mainstream brands and the smaller-sized beauty start-ups, respectively, The former was represented by Asyraf Khalid of Simplysiti, whilst Datcanraw Chandrarao of Can Can’s Beauty filled in for the latter. Both of them shared their journey in the cosmetics industry, as well as their own personal experiences and ideas regarding the application of AR & VR technology by their brands. Each brand found their niche selling point crucial to their respective successes: Simplysiti decided very early on during its inception to focus on the gaping hole that was the halal cosmetics market, later becoming the one of the first cosmetics brand in Malaysia to receive a halal certification from JAKIM.
On the other hand, Can Can’s Beauty saw the homogeneity in Malaysian beauty advertising idealising fair-skinned beauties as an opportunity to opt for inclusivity by focusing their products on tanned & dark-skinned beauties. The session ends by concluding that while there is always room for technological improvement, the touch-centric sensations offered by testing products in physical retailers will not be replaced by AR & VR technologies anytime soon. Industry insiders were probably the main target of this session, but the laid-back sharing approach enabled other participants to be able to take away something out of this as well.