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Next-generation mirror analyzes faces and prints out customized makeup sheets

by

Staff Writer

Panasonic Corp. is developing a “magic” mirror for 2020 that will use nanotechnology for high-definition TVs to offer advice on how to become more beautiful.

The aim of the Snow Beauty Mirror is “to let people become what they want to be,” said Panasonic’s Sachiko Kawaguchi, who is in charge of the product’s development.

“Since 2012 or 2013, many female high school students have taken advantage of blogs and other platforms to spread their own messages,” Kawaguchi said. “Now the trend is that, in this digital era, they change their faces (on a photo) as they like to make them appear as they want to be.”

When one sits in front of the computerized mirror, a camera and sensors start scanning the face to check the skin. It then shines a light to analyze reflection and absorption rates, find flaws like dark spots, wrinkles and large pores, and offer tips on how to improve appearances.

But this is when the real “magic” begins.

Tap print on the results screen and a special printer for the mirror churns out an ultrathin, 100-nanometer makeup-coated patch that is tailor-made for the person examined.

The patch is made of a safe material often used for surgery so it can be directly applied to the face. Once the patch settles, it is barely noticeable and resists falling off unless sprayed with water.

The technologies behind the patch involve Panasonic’s know-how in organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), Kawaguchi said. By using the company’s technology to spray OLED material precisely onto display substrates, the printer connected to the computerized mirror prints a makeup ink that is made of material similar to that used in foundation, she added.

Though the product is still in the early stages of development, Panasonic envisions the mirror allowing users to download their favorite makeups from a database and apply them. It also believes the makeup sheet can be used to cover blemishes and birthmarks.

Home electronics retailers and major appliance makers in Japan expect beauty electronics to become a game-changer in the struggling home appliance market.

According to a report by Fuji Keizai Co., the estimated size of Japan’s market for beauty appliances, including facial steamers, hair straighteners and epilators, was ¥72.7 billion in 2014 — up 4.8 percent from the previous year — despite sluggish sales of “white goods” such as refrigerators and washing machines.

The same report said that, given the increasing popularity of beauty appliances, many electronics stores in Japan are expanding floor space dedicated to them.

With appliance sales hitting a wall, Panasonic decided to beef up consumer consultation efforts to figure out their diverse needs, Kawaguchi said.

“We can no longer satisfy customers just with advancements in technology. TV, for example, has been evolving from HD to 2K and 4K and so on. But we are not certain that’s what customers really want,” she said.

“The important thing for us is not to show customers how their future lifestyles should be, but to consult with customers and create them together,” she added.

Before coming up with the smart mirror, Panasonic conducted a survey involving more than 50 middle- to upper-class women from six major Asian cities whose ages ranged from their 20s to 40s about makeup habits and demands.

Some respondents said they were not sure how to care for their skin to make it look its best, while others said they were hesitant to visit makeup counters in department stores.

“As consumer needs are becoming increasingly diverse, the first thing to do is to offer a tailor-made solution to answer each individual’s needs,” Kawaguchi said.

Panasonic aims to introduce the smart mirror and cosmetics sheets at department stores and beauty salons by 2020.

But Kawaguchi said there are many technological and marketing hurdles that must first be overcome — including how to mass-produce the ultrathin sheets.

“We are still at about 30 percent of overall progress,” she said, adding that the company hopes to market the makeup sheet at a price as low as foundation and concealer combined.

“I hope that, by 2020, applying facial sheets will become a major way to do makeup,” she said.

This monthly feature, appearing on the second Monday or the second Tuesday when Monday is a press holiday, looks at technologies still under development or new to the market.