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Tech helps beauty ‘dreams’ come true, says L’Oreal

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Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO of L'Oreal, delivers a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on January 9, 2024 in Las Vegas
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Technology, in particular artificial intelligence, is making it possible to fulfill beauty wishes like never before, Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oreal’s Tech Incubator, told AFP.

He spoke in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual tech extravaganza in Las Vegas, where L’Oreal CEO Nicolas Hieronimus delivered the keynote speech

Is L’Oreal embracing tech?

A: Our CEO being the CES keynote is such a proud moment for us, and even more for the beauty industry. It’s the first time a beauty company CEO is speaking at the largest tech stage in the world. It signals the essentiality of beauty in society today, and the critical role tech plays in elevating products and experiences.

We strive to build beauty products that are powered by tech, not tech products powered by beauty. We don’t look at the latest tech trend; we look at what people need and where the consumer tensions lie, and then create the tech to solve it.

We’ve had consumer tensions for so long — like the fact that 50 percent of women can’t find the right shade match of foundation — and those tensions are now being solved more easily, faster and with more delight. We are meeting people’s dreams and expectations more effectively, thanks to the marriage of tech and beauty.

Does AI have a role to play?

A: In many of our innovations, the common denominator is artificial intelligence – which we have been using for years, guided by our sense of purpose. We have growing experience of deploying AI across our brands and divisions.

In 2018, L’Oreal acquired (augmented reality company) ModiFace, enabling us to create services like Virtual Try-On for hair, nail color and makeup try-ons.

A great product example is Rouge Sur Mesure by Yves Saint Laurent Beaute. It’s an AI-powered, connected personalized lipstick device with augmented reality capabilities to virtually try-on and recommend lipstick shades from a selection of 4,000 shade options with a touch of a button and within seconds.

What do you expect from tech?

Tech isn’t about tech. It’s about guiding people to the right choices, and it’s about understanding your individual beauty based on data that will be powered by tech.

We want to offer everyone the best of cosmetics innovation in terms of quality, efficacy and safety; and meeting the infinite diversity of beauty needs and desires all over the world. It is through technology that we can meet these needs.

For our newest innovation, AirLight Pro, we’re launching with hairstylist professionals first…  With other tech products, we launch to consumers first. It varies project to project and brand to brand.

How do you decide on tech products?

A: Our end goal is to build great products for our consumers. Starting with tech trends can lead to gimmicky results, especially in such a saturated market. While we need technology, we also need deep consumer insights into how we can make beauty lives better… Our approach is to first start with the consumer need, then use the technology that’s been clinically tested for 100 percent accuracy, and through that, build products that are enhanced and augmented to bring experiences to a new level.

This process helps us constantly challenge ourselves to build on technology and develop great products and experiences that are completely unique. We also say no to projects that don’t deliver experiences that go above and beyond what’s already existing in the marketplace.

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Meta ‘supreme court’ takes on cases of deepfake porn

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Meta's independent oversight board can make recommendations regarding the social media giant's deepfake porn policies but it is up to the tech firm to actually make any changes
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Meta’s oversight board said Tuesday it is scrutinizing the social media titan’s deepfake porn policies, through the lens of two cases.

The move by what is referred to as a Meta “supreme court” for content moderation disputes comes just months after the widespread sharing of lewd AI-generated images of megastar Taylor Swift on X, formerly Twitter.

The Meta board picked its two cases, regarding images shared on Instagram and Facebook, to “assess whether Meta’s policies and its enforcement practices are effective at addressing explicit AI-generated imagery,” it said in the release.

The board can make recommendations regarding the social media giant’s deepfake porn policies but it is up to the tech firm to actually make any changes.

The first case taken up by the Meta Oversight Board involves an AI-generated image of a nude woman posted on Instagram.

The woman pictured resembled a public figure in India, sparking complaints from users in that country.

Meta left the image up, later saying it did so in error, the board said.

The second case involves a picture posted to a Facebook group devoted to AI creations.

That image depicted a nude woman resembling “an American public figure” with a man groping one of her breasts, the board said in a release.

The board did not name the woman, who it said was identified in a caption on the synthetic image at issue.

Meta removed the image for violating its harassment policy, and the user who posted the content appealed the decision, according to the board.

People were invited to submit comment, particularly on the gravity of harms posed by deepfake pornography and the harm it does to women who are public figures.

Deepfake porn images of celebrities are not new, but activists and regulators are worried that easy-to-use tools employing generative AI will create an uncontrollable flood of toxic or harmful content.

The targeting of Swift, one of the world’s top-streamed artists whose latest concert tour propelled her to the top of American fame, shined a spotlight on the phenomenon, with her legions of fans outraged at the development.

“It is alarming,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked about the images at the time.

“Sadly we know that lack of enforcement (by the tech platforms) disproportionately impacts women and they also impact girls who are the overwhelming targets of online harassment,” Jean-Pierre added.

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Samsung returns to top of the smartphone market: industry tracker

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Smartphone market tracker International Data Corporation expects Samsung and Apple will continue to dominate when it comes to high-end smartphones but that pressure will increase from Chinese rivals making more budget priced handsets
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Samsung regained its position as the top smartphone seller, wresting back the lead from Apple as Chinese rivals close the gap on both market leaders, industry tracker International Data Corporation (IDC) reported Monday.

South Korea-based Samsung overtook Apple as worldwide smartphone shipments grew nearly 8 percent in the first quarter of this year to 289.4 million, IDC said, citing its preliminary data.

It was the third consecutive quarter of growth in the global smartphone market, signalling that a recovery from a slump in the sector is underway, according to IDC.

IDC Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers team vice president Ryan Reith expected top smartphone companies to gain share and small brands to struggle for position as recovery progresses.

Samsung shipped 60.1 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year, claiming nearly 21 percent of the market, according to IDC figures.

Apple shipped 50.1 million iPhones, garnering just over 17 percent of the market in the same period, IDC reported.

Apple smartphone shipments were down 9.6 percent in a quarter-over-quarter comparison, while Samsung shipments slipped less than one percent, according to the market tracker.

Meanwhile, China-based Xiaomi saw shipments grow about 33 percent to 40.8 million and Transsion about 85 percent to 28.5 million, taking third and fourth positions in the overall smartphone market, IDC reported.

“While Apple managed to capture the top spot at the end of 2023, Samsung successfully reasserted itself as the leading smartphone provider in the first quarter,” Reith said.

IDC expects Samsung and Apple to maintain their hold on the high end of the smartphone market while Chinese competitors seek to expand sales, according to Reith.

Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team, said: “There is a shift in power among the Top 5 companies, which will likely continue as market players adjust their strategies in a post-recovery world.

“Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets.”

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Hong Kong conditionally approves first bitcoin and ether ETFs

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Hong Kong's securities regulator granted conditional approval for city's first spot-bitcoin and ether exchange traded funds
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Hong Kong’s securities regulator on Monday granted conditional approval to start the city’s first spot-bitcoin and ether exchange-traded funds (ETFs), firms involved said, positioning it as a leader in Asia for the use of cryptocurrencies as investment tools.

ChinaAMC (HK), the city’s unit of China Asset Management, said in a statement it had received regulatory approval from Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong (SFC) for the provision of virtual asset management services.

The company is “actively deploying resources in the development of spot Bitcoin ETF and spot Ethereum ETF”, it said. 

This will be done in partnership with BOCI-Prudential Trustee Limited, a joint venture of the fund management arm of Bank of China (HK) and the British multinational insurance firm.

Two other fund managers — the Hong Kong units of Harvest Fund Management and Bosera Asset Management — also said they had received conditional approvals from the SFC, Bloomberg reported.

The SFC declined to comment on individual applications.

OSL Digital Securities will provide custody services to China AMC and Harvest to ensure trading safety, the licensed digital assets platform announced Monday. 

“This collaboration marks a critical advancement in the financial landscape of the region, heralding a new chapter in digital asset investments,” OSL said in a statement. 

Hong Kong has been trying to edge ahead as a regional digital asset hub as its international financial centre status has been dented by political turmoil in recent years and China’s economic downturn.

The latest move came three months after the United States gave the green light to ETFs pegged to bitcoin’s spot price, making it easier for mainstream investors to add the unit to their portfolio.

Hong Kong is also widely considered an experimental field for including cryptocurrencies as mainstream investment tools — which are banned in mainland China.

“The financial hub is looking to establish itself as a competitor in the space competing with Dubai and Singapore as regulators open up crypto markets to institutional demand,” said James Harte, an analyst from Tickmill. 

He added that Bitcoin futures were down “around 7 percent at the lows of the day before sentiment reversed on” Hong Kong’s news. 

Last December, the city’s SFC said it was ready to allow retail investors to buy funds that are 100 percent invested in some of the digital assets, triggering the first wave of applications from fund managers. 

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