Why the hell does a makeup company, Loreal, have a machine learning division?

When you think about the companies on the leading edge of technology, solving the big problems of the world with the latest developments in the AI specialty of machine...

When you think about the companies on the leading edge of technology, solving the big problems of the world with the latest developments in the AI specialty of machine learning, you don’t think of a makeup company.

During this week’s Viva Technology conference in Paris, the company highlighted their efforts in the machine learning which are actually pretty neat and something we should talk about.

The first product we seen was a smart hairbrush. This looks almost like any other hairbrush from a distance (sans the bigger handle to accommodate the batteries), but when you look closer, you’ll notice the presence of a sensor in the middle of the bristles. What Loreal realised is that healthy hair doesn’t break off like unhealthy hair does. When brushing that hair snapping makes a sound, albeit a very tiny, usually not detectable by humans, but with modern microphone technology, they can hear it.

By understanding when a person’s hair is unhealthy, they can receive recommended treatments to improve it and these need to be personalised to the individual. One the surface, hair is hair right ? Wrong. There’s a massive difference in what ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ hair means for each person.

Loreal are taking the hair data and comparing it with millions of other models to understand what the ideal or best case scenario is for your hair type, then recommend a plan of treatment through the associated mobile app. Sure Loreal hope you buy their product to fix the issue, but they say its less about moving product and more about helping customers, so we could call it a customer ratainment strategy, rather than an acquisition one.

The hair data needs to be collected over a period of time, so you need to use the brush for at least a couple of weeks before starting to receive recommendations. At this stage the comparisons with modelling from hair health norms can make accurate recommendations and account for any anomalies like you going swimming in chlorine.

 

This is just one example of how Loreal is using technology to improve their business and offer clients additional benefits. This is a serious investment with the company understanding they need to own this core technology and have created a machine learning division inside the company.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.