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Digital Makeup

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Digital Makeup

Beauty, science, and technology have always been intertwined.

Beauty, science, and technology have always been intertwined.

Hundreds of years ago in Japan, geisha formulated a makeup base using wax from local trees. (To be fair, it was also made from harmful lead.) Chalk-white faces, necks and forearms were in vogue.

In the 1920s, makeup artist Helena Rubinstein experimented with kohl to invent mascara for the silver screen, which set off a new trend in long, jet-black eyelashes.

Today, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and smart cameras are converging at an interesting moment in time: We are under continual surveillance and many of us are striving to look our best.

In China, many people now use facial recognition to pay for everything from groceries to taxi cabs. It isn’t privacy that has many Chinese people concerned, but rather how they look in all of the next-gen pay-by-face apps.

A poll by Chinese news organization Sina Technology revealed that 60% of those who use facial recognition for payments feel self-conscious about how they look and would prefer a system of payment that is more flattering. In response, payment giants like Alipay—that’s Alibaba’s e-wallet subsidiary, which counts more than a billion monthly active users—are building in beauty filters to their systems.

This could have a reverberating effect as more digital payment companies enter the marketplace and competition for market share heats up. Consumers might be willing to pay higher transaction fees in exchange for looking great (or at least avoiding looking bad) while they make purchases.