Snapchat, NYX Conjures AR/AI Beauty Looks With a Hand Wave

In what may be the closest thing to casting glamour spells that tech can muster, Snap Inc. and NYX Professional Makeup are bringing a new Snapchat experience that recommends personalized beauty looks and lets people wave through the virtual try-ons by waving their hand in the air. The tech company plans to reveal the new “NYX Beauty Bestie” at its latest beauty summit on Thursday.

Less a matter of magic than technical wizardry, Snap’s co-development with NYX plumbed the overlap between three bustling avenues of technology — artificial intelligence, AR and human-to-computer input — all of which are areas the partners have explored in different ways before, but aim to bring together in Beauty Bestie.

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AI operates behind the scenes, driven by trends and details such as occasion, time of day, local weather, mood, personal color palette and, with usage over time, personal taste and preference information. Using this data, the system will select from a range of cosmetic looks created by NYX’s human makeup artists. The app showcases each look on the user’s selfie view using AR, Snap’s specialty, and then recognizes the person’s mid-air hand gesture to roll through each option.

The experience is shoppable, so once the individual finds a makeover he or she likes, the app makes it simple to call up the NYX e-commerce page to buy the items, thanks to a “more” button that will appear in view.

Smartphones have been capable of gesture control for years, although with buggy experiences and limited utility, they haven’t quite caught on for wider adoption. But development progressed, and with the addition of other technologies, Snap and NYX are betting that they have found the perfect use case to take it even further.

“The AR gives you the ability to instantly see the look on your face. As we evolve the experience, and over the next few months, we’re going to double down on that — so we’ll give you the inspiration of the looks that you can have, and then the expertise of the makeup artists, [in regard to] tutorials on how to do that,” explained Resh Sidhu, global director of Arcadia AR Creative Studio at Snap Inc.

The experience already includes helpful tips, but for the next phase, the company is exploring ways to offer a step-by-step guide. That use case takes gesture control from fun novelty to high utility. “In that moment, you’re not going to be holding your phone,” she said, “you’ll be putting your phone down and you’ll be having all of the makeup brushes in your hands.”

Snap x NYX Professional Makeup’s new beauty experience is like a very smart makeup assistant that lives in the user’s pocket or purse.
Snap x NYX Professional Makeup’s new beauty experience is like a very smart makeup assistant that lives in the user’s pocket or purse.

For NYX, as a tech-forward beauty company, the feature looked like a no-brainer. “We’ve always been a digital-first brand, and have explored the different technologies over the years, as we’ve brought ways for people to experience our products — not just in real life, which we always knew, but in virtual life,” said Yasmin Dastmalchi, U.S. general manager at NYX Professional Makeup. “And so I think the idea of the gestures is an evolution of the technology….

“We see this tool evolving to help reinvent what the makeup bag of the future looks like.”

In that sense, AI may have a deeper practical role to play in that makeup bag as well. Data science, which already enables Snapchat to map and understand the contours of the face, may lead to features that inject AR into the tutorials themselves, pinpointing precise areas of each consumer’s face where, say, the eyeliner and eyeshadow should go to achieve the perfect smoky eye or where to apply blush for contouring.

AI also enables valuable beauty insights such as top makeup trends, frequent problem areas, points of confusion and, of course, what people try on most versus what ultimately sells, among many other things. As Beauty Bestie is a NYX exclusive, this data will flow back to the brand, so it can make informed business decisions.

That’s just one of several scenarios Snapchat is interested in plumbing with its approach to sectors like beauty — so much so that during the COVID-19 pandemic era, the company launched a dedicated beauty conference, now in its third year.

Snap’s beauty summit differs from its main Partner Summit, as a more focused event. “It’s our way to engage the entire beauty marketing community in what is exciting on the platform,” explained Michele Nevit, head of consumer packaged goods, beauty, at Snap Inc. “It’s storytelling across all of our advertising formats. And then and why specifically, our audience of you know, 750 million monthly active users is right for beauty, and really hitting marketers and how they can leverage that audience.”

“It has evolved over the years. Year one was all virtual, then we did it in real life last year. Now we’re doing it in a much bigger forum, which is great, because there’s such high demand and a waitlist for it.”

There’s a lot to go over at the event, particularly as the Snapchat developer dives further into an expanding array of technologies and ad products.

Snap shed light on that using NYX data as an example: In the last year alone, the combination of Snap Stars, AR and High-Impact Takeovers handed NYX more than 13x return on-ad-spend norms. For its relaunch of the Vivid Matte Liquid Matte Black eyeliner, more than 90 percent of incremental sales came from new buyers. The network effect jumped beyond e-commerce, with AR driving offline sales impact. The brand pushed innovation via play-to-win shopping gamification and saw 6.3x purchase intent, versus consumer norms for its annual “Spring Drop” in December.

One of the brand’s most recent 2023 campaigns, which launched NYX Smooth Whip lip, NYX leaned into ASMR and VTO, with a combination of video and AR multi-ad product exposure on Snapchat that led to an 11-times lift in brand awareness and 7.2-times lift in purchase intent versus norms.

Still, the starring technology at Snap is augmented reality. According to the company’s internal data, 67 beauty AR lenses are viewed every second through the Snapchat camera. That headlining role is becoming even more significant these days, not just in beauty, but as the spatial computing movement at large continues to build froth. The concept, which aims to blend tech more seamlessly into the real world, raises the profile of extended realities like AR.

“We fundamentally believe every brand should have an AR strategy,” added Nevit. “We really think that that’s the way to connect with especially Gen Z and millennials today and for the future.”

As for Beauty Bestie, the experience will go live in November and include the try-ons and gestures, as well as saved libraries, so people can revisit previous looks. Phase two will arrive shortly after that, potentially in December. Plans for that include Snapshot, a wrap-up akin to Spotify’s year in music that recalls what users listened to over the year.

“It will tell you things like, ‘Hey, do you know you became the eyeliner queen? Because you did 22 eyeliner looks and you slayed mostly on Tuesdays. And hey, we hear you, you need tips on Wednesdays,’” Sidhu continued. “It is actually going to aggregate all of the data and give you a really fun recalling.” With machine learning, it will also understand if, say, the person tends to stick with safe looks and even nudge the person to try new things…just like a real-life, human bestie might.

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