For years, Hannah Williams’ go-to selfie app has been YouCam Makeup. Before posting a self-portrait to Instagram, the 25-year-old Morgantown cashier, W. Va., will run the photo through YouCam’s augmented reality filters to whiten her teeth, remove stray pimples and smooth her complexion. Over the past few months, she’s played with the app’s cat-eye eyeliner, used her AR hair filter to reimagine herself with red and purple hair, and modeled her face for her Bumble profile.
Williams said she got a lot of value out of the app: It makes her look “ripped off,” she said. But each of Williams’ selfies provides even more value to Perfect Corp., YouCam’s Taiwan-based parent company. Backed by investors including Snap, Chanel, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Alibaba Group Holding, Perfect Corp. offers consumers and brands sophisticated trial tools, essentially AR filters that allow customers to virtually test beauty products from their own homes. For as little as $399 a month, Perfect Corp.’s artificial intelligence platform, trained on hundreds of millions of faces like Williams’, can analyze users’ skin quality, match exact shade of their skin to a matching product and layer cosmetics and fashion accessories. And very soon, the program might even label users’ personality traits.
It’s this latter feature that presents more dystopian possibilities. Recently, Perfect Corp. has launched an AI Personality Finder, which promises to read your facial features for clues about the type of person you are and, by extension, the type of products you might buy. Intrigued (if a little alarmed), I took a selfie and browsed through the online demo. Five seconds later, he spat out a profile based solely on the layout of my face. According to the Personality Finder algorithm, the distance between my nose and my mouth, combined with my rounded cheekbones, hooded eyes, and other facial attributes, identified me as an enthusiastic, action-oriented, and social person. I got 95% for extroversion, 21% for neuroticism, and 63% for conscientiousness.
This data, when fed into Perfect Corp.’s recommendation engine, licensed from companies as varied as Google, Meta and Aveda, then displayed a variety of generic cosmetic products. (The demo program does not currently sync with specific brands.) Apparently, my personality syncs algorithmically with red lipstick, eyebrow pencil, and Goddess and Lilac perfume. These products are suggestions for future corporate customers, but it’s easy to imagine them being replaced by real products from existing customers like L’Oreal, Macy’s, Estée Lauder or Nars. And Perfect Corp. clearly has aspirations far beyond selling lip liners and blushers.