One Toronto-based company is hoping to lead the chatbot revolution in one unlikely vertical — beauty. ModiFace, which creates augmented reality technology for the beauty and medical industries, has launched a chatbot for Facebook Messenger.
The Modiface bot has expert knowledge in 20,000 beauty products, and will allow shoppers to search for makeup products by asking questions about colour, brand name, or shade name.
“There’s no friction for someone to message on Facebook Messenger about lipstick. If you wanted to go on a website, you have to go on a browser, and there’s many steps involved,” said Parham Aarabi, founder and CEO of ModiFace. “If you want to download an app it’s easier, but you still have to actually download the app. But with Facebook Messenger, you can send a message and it talks back.”
For its messenger chat bot, the company is focusing on providing lipstick suggestions and AR suggestions through the bot so that it can truly understand the domain of chat bots. Using the company’s augmented reality technology, a consumer can “try on” shades they can on their own photo by taking a photo within Messenger. Users can also purchase products directly from the bot.
“What we always envisioned is to create the ultimate beauty advisor, and an AR try-on is certainly central to that. But having a conversational interface exactly as you would for a beauty advisor is key,” said Aarabi. “Beauty is a very social thing, and the ability to converse to find the right beauty products is key. So when Facebook opened up their platform so people can chat with bots, we thought this was perfect for our technology.”
In the past, Modiface regularly released features taking advantage of AR, including an app that helps doctors and consumers better evaluate skin health with an anti-aging simulator and hemoglobin visualizer, and a high definition mirror that shows off the effects of makeup, teeth whitening, and contact lenses on a user’s live video.
While the beauty industry is mired in products and platforms that promise customers the world, Parham said that ModiFace’s solutions are rooted in scientific research. Parham has been developing Modiface’s technology over the past decade, including during his time studying for his PhD at Stanford University and working out of the University of Toronto, where he studied lip tracking and ways to understand what someone is saying from far away. For the past year, Parham has been working with dermatologists to create technology that replicates professional assessment, as well as makeup artists artists that understand makeup styles.
“We found that, being in the beauty industry and providing beauty and skincare advice, you need to have expertise that dermatologists have,” said Parham. “You can’t just say, ‘This is a product that you need’. You have to understand skin conditions and proper medical tests.”