It was just under a year ago Amazon revealed its Echo Look device – a selfie camera embedded with style advice. Now, it has a patent for a virtual mirror.
More specifically, according to Geekwire, it’s a blended-reality display that puts your image into a virtual scene, and then puts you in a virtual version of an outfit within it.
The patent describes the mirror as partially-reflective and partially-transmissive, with cameras, projectors, display panels and lights embedded.
“When the user views the mirror, the user sees a reflection from the mirror of illuminated objects in the scene and the transmitted images from the display device through the mirror, the transmitted images being perceived as part of the reflected scene,” the inventors say.
In other words, the face and eyes of the user are scanned so that they are seen as a reflection, while the virtual clothes and the scene behind are transmitted through the mirror. The result is a real-time blended reality look.
A beachside scene is one suggested example – showcasing the user in a swimsuit on their real body.
Geekwire adds: “It’s not clear how close the blended-reality mirror is to becoming a reality, or if it’ll actually be manufactured as a physical object. Amazon makes a practice of refraining from comment on its patents until they produce products. But last year’s introduction of Echo Look suggests that as far as the Seattle-based online retailer is concerned, blended reality is no mere fantasy.”
It also highlights the fact Amazon acquired Body Labs in 2017, a software company that uses computer vision to create accurate 3D avatars. This fits well with a blended-reality product strategy.
In just three short years, Charlotte Tilbury make-up has become somewhat of an obsession among its fans. Heralded by the celebrities and models the namesake artist has long worked with herself, it’s transposed into the consumer market at a rapid rate, popping up with counters all around the world and a second standalone store opening in Westfield London this week.
Core to the offering from a marketing perspective is a strong digital presence anchored by beauty tutorials, an eagerness to experiment with new technologies, like virtual reality for its Kate Moss-endorsed fragrance launch for instance, and a true sense of experience in the stores themselves.
Shoppers can book makeover sessions to recreate one of the 10 signature looks Tilbury products are built around – from Bombshell to Dolce Vita. Each take around 45 minutes, and unsurprisingly, serve as an opportunity to sell the items being used, either as a package or individually.
That part isn’t a new concept for a beauty brand. What is, in the Westfield store, is a virtual mirror that aims to help the decision process for which look to go for in the first place, or indeed which items to choose if you don’t have time for one of those tutorials at all.
Sitting atop a plush burgundy seat, users can choose any one of the 10 looks to see it superimposed on their own faces on a screen in front of them, thanks to augmented reality technology from creative studio Holition. In real-time, lips, eyes even make-up on the skin is transformed and mapped to the individual’s features so they can turn their heads, look closer, even close one eye to appreciate the shades even more. From a first-hand perspective, it’s an incredibly genuine and realistic experience.
Holition’s creative team reportedly worked closely with Tilbury’s make-up artists to understand the way in which the products are applied in real-life, including how they are layered and blended.
Said Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of Holition: “We [needed] to clearly understand how make-up is applied and only then could we start to create this digitally and make the virtual look as realistic as possible… Our creatives spent many months creating and perfecting the 10 looks including colour, shape, skin tone and face tracking.”
The full range of products is available for try-on including foundation, blusher, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lipliner, lipstick and contouring techniques. A clever button has even been added to show how the look can be transformed for night and day – a nude lip with dark eyes on the one hand, updated with a red lip for the evening for instance.
Users can then save looks to compare them, share them and even email them to themselves. Better yet, they can also choose to see all 10 looks comparatively side by side – in just 40 seconds. That’s a significant boon for anyone not sure what suits them and short on time.
Indeed, while there’s something inherently gimmicky about the majority of so-called “magic mirrors” we’ve seen in the market to-date – augmented reality try-ons often for the sake of it rather than because of the fact it really helps you make a decision – this one serves as an enormous selling opportunity for the brand.
Providing consumers with the option for a real-life make-up session remains an important one, and the heart of the Tilbury experience, but it is hoped the ability to help the decision making process along the way through the use of this digital tool, will result in greater cross-selling, not to mention customer satisfaction.
Indeed, anecdotally, one of the team members from Holition on-hand to launch the magic mirrors to press this week, said a key attendee had believed she was set on one particular look to then go and have done by a make-up artist in real-life, but the mirror completely changed her mind. The ease by which shoppers can similarly determine what they want is a promising one, they said.
On the new store, Tilbury said: “It’s make-up made easy, but also fun and engaging. I can only liken it to falling down Alice’s rabbit hole into a world of make-up enchantment – my stores are all about making make-up easy-to-use, easy-to-choose, and easy-to-shop in a luxurious theatrical, sensory environment.”
Virtual try-on isn’t a new concept in the beauty industry, with brands and retailers including L’Oréal, Rimmel and Sephora all having their own versions of augmented reality experiences to-date. Rather than full-sized physical stands, however, they have tended to be apps at this stage; tools that allow the user to independently play around with different looks and products through their mobile phone screens.
What will be interesting then, will be to see how consumers actually take to engaging with this technology in-store. There’s still a perceived barrier in the retail world for shoppers to willingly interact with screens for fear they’re not supposed to. In this instance, however, the mirrors will be used as assisted selling tools, especially to begin with, thus actively encouraged by associates.