It sounds scary but it might just be the future of beauty salons. Kerry Potter does some machine learning
We were mesmerized when we saw this viral video of a robot doing eyelash extensions. Take a look…
So many questions… the first of which is: is it real? It certainly is. A session with the lash robot in Luum beauty salon in Oakland, California (near Silicon Valley) will set you back $95 - about £75 – so is comparable to standard eyelash extensions. The machine works alongside a human lash technician, who preps the eyes and applies patches under them, which are printed with a barcode. This instructs the robot as to which lashes to pick and where to apply them. The robot does the grunt work (more quickly and with greater dexterity than a human, apparently) then an IRL technician adds a personal touch at the end, checking the robot’s handiwork and adding more lashes for a customized look.
Our second big question: why on earth would you want a robot poking around your eyes? One malfunction and does your eye get gouged out? Apparently it’s far safer than it looks – the robot’s ‘hands’ are lightweight wands that immediately fall off if you touch them. And it’s worth bearing in mind that many surgical procedures these days involve robots.
What does a human eyelash extension expert think of her robot counterpart?
London-based Camilla Kirk-Reynolds, aka Camilla Lashes, is the woman A listers and royals call when they’re in search of luscious lashes. She uses a pioneering gel “curing” method – using UV light to cure the gel that binds the extension to the natural lash, similar to the process used in gel manicures. (GTG’s Victoria Woodhall is a big fan of Camilla’s artistry and wrote about it here for a national newspaper.) The Luum robot uses a similar technique, although one reviewer of the robot reports her lashes fell out after three weeks, whereas Camilla’s should last five to seven weeks.
Camilla admits she was “horrified” when she first saw the video, but having done some research, she’s now merely “intrigued”. So will the robot prove to be her nemesis? “If the technician is good enough, the machine will never take their job,” she says. “The technology is not advanced enough to offer a bespoke treatment.” You need a highly trained human lash expert, she says, to get the curl and shape just right, make tweaks, take into account that our left eye is slightly different to our right, and so on. “That all comes from experience and knowing what to look for and how things feel. I do believe there is a place for these machines but I don’t think lash technicians need to worry just yet.”
Are robots the future of beauty treatments?
The jury is out. It seems likely that machines will one day be used for repetitive tasks in the salon, albeit under the watchful eye of a human being. Anything that speeds up the painstakingly boring application of highlights in the hair salon, for example, would get our vote. Perhaps the salon of the future will look more like the self-checkout till area of a supermarket, presided over by a member of staff who can override the machines when necessary.
Cost, however, is likely to be a barrier for salon owners, as Camilla points out. “The price of one of the lash robot machines is four or five times the yearly wage of a technician and you still need a human to be involved because the machine can’t do it all on its own.”
One thing we do know for sure – a robot doing our bikini line wax is a hard no.