Every Problem Looks Like a Nail

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Robots are brushing their way into the beauty market.
What’s new: A trio of companies is developing automated nail-painting devices that integrate robotics and computer vision, The New York Times reported.
How it works: Users select a color and place a hand or finger into a slot in a toaster-sized machine. The system scans the fingertips, and an automated paint dispenser — in some cases, a mechanical arm tipped by a brush — coats each nail. These machines update earlier nail-decorating gadgets that, say, applied decals without using AI.

  • Clockwork aims to install its machines in offices and retail stores. The company recently opened a storefront in San Francisco.
  • Nimble and Coral aim their devices at home users.
  • All three companies are still tweaking their products ahead of official launches.

Behind the news: The beauty industry has embraced a variety of AI techniques.

  • Makeup wearers can upload a portrait to Estée Lauder and L’Oreal, which use face recognition to determine color combinations that match or highlight a person’s skin tone.
  • Neutrogena’s Skin360 scans a user’s face to identify blemishes and provide targeted skin-care advice.
  • Photo-filtering apps like Meitu automatically touch up users’ selfies.

Why it matters: Americans spent $8.3 billion on nail care last year. Automated systems could appeal to people who are looking for a fast makeover as well as those who want to continue social distancing without foregoing manicures. But such systems also could also displace workers who already contend with low wages.
We’re thinking: Paint your nails or don’t, but everyone who writes code should take good care of their hands.

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