With just eight percent of its global sales taking place online, it should be no surprise that L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics company, is starting to take augmented reality seriously.
The company has just purchased ModiFace, a Canadian firm which produces smartphone applications capable of applying digital makeup to users through the front-facing camera.
Based in Toronto and employing almost 70 engineers, researchers and scientists, ModiFace has worked with L'Oreal on a number of previous digital projects. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Although only small for now, L'Oreal's online sales have grown from five percent to eight percent since 2015, so naturally the company is exploring ways to further boost this by letting customers try out makeup through their smartphones.
As well as makeup, ModiFace has developed an app called Style My Hair which lets users see what their hair would look like when dyed different colors.
Lubomira Rochet, chief digital officer at L'Oreal, told Reuters: "With ModiFace we've acquired...the stock of inventions they're already created, but more than that, the ability to look at reinventing the beauty experience in the years to come."
ModiFace's researchers have submitted more than 200 scientific publications and registered over 30 patents, the company says, giving L'Oreal instant access to a treasure trove of augmented makeup technology.
A virtual makeup feature of the new Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ uses technology created by Modiface, which lets owners of the phone try out makeup then buy it immediately from within the camera app. As smart mirrors fitted with embedded cameras and AR computing smarts are developed, it is expected that technologies like these will give consumers an even easier way to try out new styles and buy cosmetic products from home.
L'Oreal is no stranger to experimenting with new technologies. It already has an AR app of its own called Makeup Genius, and at the CES tech show in Las Vegas in January it showed off a smart sensor which attaches to the wearer's fingernail.
Connected to a smartphone app, L'Oreal wants to help wearers learn what's affecting their body by monitoring things like air pollution and UV rays. The company will start testing the sensor later in 2018 by giving the device away for free to dermatologists and their patients. L'Oreal expects to start selling the sensor to the public in 2019.