Sometimes things sound good on paper but don’t live up your expectations. When I wrote up the L’Oreal announcement for its upcoming skincare personification gadget Perso, I was stoked and a little nervous that seeing it up close and personal would be a disappointment. After all, that’s generally how things go at events like CES. But this time, I was pleasantly surprised.
The whole idea behind the Perso is personification. Using a blend of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and environmental data like weather and UV index, the device mixes the exact amount of product you need from three NFC-enabled cartridges stored inside. For the demo, I sat down with Guive Balooch, who heads up L’Oreal’s Technology Incubator. Balooch then showed me the Perso companion app. In it, I could see what the UV index for the day was – 2, not terribly high but also not something to be ignored – as well as other factors, such as humidity and pollution. Then, with a push of a button, three globs of varying products like serum, antioxidant, and moisturiser magically appeared at the top of the device. Even at a glance, you could see it wasn’t the same amount of each. Also, Balooch explained that if you were to take the Perso on your travels, it should be able to account for different climates. For example, because Las Vegas is so dry compared to New York City, there was more moisturiser in my mix. Likewise, because pollution in Vegas isn’t as bad, there were fewer antioxidants.
I also got to scan my face with the app to analyse my skin, where it then proceeded to grade the quality of my skin based on a set of criteria like dark spots, wrinkles, radiance, sagging, and pore visibility. (My skin is apparently ‘excellent’ except for the fact that you can see some pores and not-so-luminous – two things I dwelled on for the rest of the day.) Balooch then explained that based on these results, and environmental data, you could then get the most optimised formula day-to-day and monitor your skin’s health over time.
But Perso isn’t just skincare. The device can also mix lipstick. That portion of the app was still under some development. I couldn’t for instance, mix a colour based on the outfit I was wearing at that exact moment because L’Oreal is still building that feature. I did, however, get to browse lipstick colour trends from Instagram on the app. Basically, it showed me a grid of popular looks and from there I could pick one I liked. I could then see what that colour might look like on my face via AR. Once I picked a colour I liked, I just hit a button and three more globs appeared. Because I picked a darker red, there was more of that pigment in the mix. At that point, we mixed the colour directly on the device and then I applied it. It looked a smidge lighter on me than it did in the app, but the end result was pretty close. To my surprise, Balooch said the Perso should be able to mix a wide range of colours that include everything from dark purples to electric blues – it’ll just depend on what mix of colour cartridges you stick in the device. My favourite part, however, was that the Perso’s top is detachable and has a mirrored lid. So theoretically, you could mix a colour selection in the morning and then take it with you to go for reapplication later in the day.
It’s not just that, at least in my demo, the Perso was able to do the things it claimed. I mostly couldn’t stop thinking of how much clutter and trial-and-error this sort of device would eliminate from my life. My bathroom counter is a minefield of half-tried skincare products and at least ten tubes of lipstick. While some of these items are cheap, an embarrassing number costs a small fortune. (I’m looking at you Drunk Elephant NightBright Resurfacing Duo. How are you $28 for like 0.52 ounces of product?) The miser in me very much likes the idea of Perso dosing the precise amount of product. Not only does it eliminate waste, but it would also theoretically give me more bang for my buck. And since it’d come from a single device the size of a moisturiser bottle, it’d save so much counter space.
Ultimately, what made the Perso demo cool was how practical the device is. Many things you see at CES are pie-in-the-sky concepts that never make it to market, or if they do, it’s hard to really understand why someone would want to buy the thing. On the other hand, I have a ton of friends who keep asking if I want to try products that didn’t work out for them, or if it’s wise to shell out for another product that may not work. So long as the Perso doesn’t cost an outrageous amount – L’Oreal still hasn’t decided how much it will cost when it launches next year – I’m pretty sure most beauty nerds would be eager to give this gadget a go.
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