Could Toronto become hub for “beauty tech” research?
Cosmetic giant L’Oréal acquires its first tech company, UofT spinoff ModiFace.
U of T Engineering spin-off company ModiFace has been acquired by the world’s biggest cosmetics company L’Oréal. ModiFace is a software program that builds advanced facial visualizations using augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI).
“Beauty companies usually buy other beauty companies,” said Professor Parham Aarabi (ECE), the founder and CEO of ModiFace. “This will be the first tech company under L’Oréal.”
Aarabi founded ModiFace 11 years ago after he realized his research into computer vision and facial tracking could be applied to the cosmetics industry, where users could see what they look like with different shades and applications of makeup.
The startup uses live video to track facial features like eyes and lips and then, based on those features, renders different makeup, hair or skin effects. Aarabi said the company also uses artificial intelligence, or AI, to “understand both faces and consumers in terms of how they interact and the shades they try on.”
The global cosmetics industry is worth approximately US$460 billion and L’Oréal’s purchase of ModiFace demonstrates the importance of next-gen technology in this sector.
Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s chief digital officer, said in a statement the acquisition of ModiFace will “support the reinvention of the beauty experience around innovative services to help our customers.”
Aarabi will remain on as ModiFace’s CEO and the company will continue to be based in Toronto. He explains that 60 of the company’s 70 employees, including researchers and engineers, have a connection to U of T, and that the company plans to tap the university’s vast pool of engineering and computer science talent as it continues to grow under its new owner.
While so-called “beauty tech” may not sound as potentially disruptive as self-driving cars or AI-powered lawyers, Aarabi said the sector, and the vast amount of money that underpins it, could play a significant role in contributing to Toronto’s emergence as a global research and innovation hub.