We recently spoke with Jonathan Chippindale, Holition’s Chief Executive Officer, about the past, present, and future of augmented reality in beauty, and why Holition is ‘pro-human’.
It’s interesting because at Holition we work across luxury, fashion and beauty. In some ways beauty, perhaps, has been a little later to the space compared to fashion, but when they got into it they accelerated the whole area at a very fast rate.
There are a series of very powerful brands in the beauty space, household names recognized around the world, and the brands have a serious investment in marketing. A lot of that feeds into the creative technology space because your teams are always looking for new ideas.
The pace of change is so much quicker compared to luxury or fashion. Fashion typically works on two to three cycles per year, but the constant swarm of new types of product, names, and ideas make beauty a very vibrant space. Everyone is trying to get their message across quicker and faster, and that dynamic helps drive the creation.
The other issue is cosmetics is a very democratic product. It covers women of all ages, shapes, nationalities, and is really a ubiquitous product. Because of that there is a contemporary nature in beauty that we don’t see in other areas.
How did consumer insights help drive your work with the Bourjois blended reality Magic Mirror?
When we started Holition we didn’t intend to be a technology company. We wanted to understand the role of technology, and what digital tools brands will need to speak to their consumers.
We are pro-human at Holition. We never ever start with technology. We start with that consumer need or insight and then think creatively about how to deliver that. If you work that way, we find that the right type of technology selects itself.
A lot of the design of the Magic Mirror user journey came from insights which we derived from simply observing customer behavior in-store. Traditionally, technology in-store has been built by technologists and not by understanding consumer behavior. It ended up being incredibly complicated.
Can you explain the importance of digital empathy in your work and how that feeds the experiences you create?
One of the things we try to do is actually denigrate the role of technology. We try to hide it under the table, so the conversation is not about the technology. Because if you can do that then basically technology just becomes another channel of communication. It’s just another way of getting a message across to a customer.
If you can treat it in that way then the conversation changes to a much more interesting one focused on content, storytelling, narrative, and empathy. In the end storytelling is drawing a customer in, and building and strengthening a relationship using narrative. That’s where the empathy comes in.
The strongest stories, the best films, the greatest books, are the ones where you have an emotional connection. And the reason you have that connection is not the paper and the cover, not that you’re watching it on a particular television, but because the storytelling is great, and the experience is what captures you. In the end the technology is just the delivery.
How important is it that experiences like the COVERGIRL augmented reality be frictionless?
It’s all about understanding the human and the consumer. In the digital world we can get bored very easily. So, the key to success is not just to have a compelling product, but to deliver that product in a compelling way that fits into a consumer’s lifestyle. Technology, up until recently, has been good at putting barriers up. You’ve got to download an app or allow your phone’s camera access to the app. At the end of those steps you need to make sure that the experience is compelling enough to jump over all those walls.
What do you see as the next frontier for Augmented Reality?
When we think about that future there are a number of directional trends we are focused on. We’re interested in the long-term direction of human technology trends.
How will humans and technology interact and relate to each other in 5, 10, 20 years? If we can understand that basic relationship, then what will that mean for brands, and how will brands leverage that to effect the end consumer.
We need to remember that AI, only a couple of years ago, was something people talked about in relation to beating a human at chess. Now suddenly everyone is taking about AI doing everything; it’s part of every application we build and spoken about enabling human kind at a number of levels.
Secondly, if we join AI, AR and social media together we get an entirely new track. Joining together multiple technologies to create exponential increase is a definite way of the future.
We want to figure out how we will control technology in the future. On a desktop we use very human iconography, like dragging a file into a trash bin. How will we communicate that in the future? In the end a frictionless journey from social media to basket is quite a human and intuitive thing. We want technology to do the clever things and allow human nature to be simplified and help drive the experience.