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ELC’s Voice-Enabled Makeup Assistant Has Been Named a Winner in Fast Company’s 2023 Innovation by Design Awards


The Estée Lauder Companies’ (ELC’s) Voice-Enabled Makeup Assistant (VMA) has been named both a winner and a finalist in Fast Company’s 2023 Innovation by Design Awards. VMA was selected a winner for the Beauty and Fashion Category, and as a finalist for the Artificial Intelligence category.

“The VMA app has been shaped and informed by our collaboration with the low vision and blind community at every step, to create a tool that’s intuitive, and tailored to users’ needs,” said Michael Smith, Chief Information Officer, ELC. “This is one exciting step in an ongoing journey toward ever-greater inclusivity; future versions of our VMA app will offer expanded services that leverage AI to bring the experience of independently using beauty products to millions of people that are low vision and blind.”

VMA uses voice instruction technologies to assist the user in makeup application; users receive audio feedback and tips on whether their lipstick, eyeshadow, or foundation is evenly applied. VMA’s pioneering smart mirror technology is driven by ELC’s augmented reality and artificial intelligence capabilities and was developed using machine learning. Using AI, VMA identifies makeup applied on a user’s face and assesses the uniformity and boundaries of application and coverage. VMA identifies any areas on the face that may require more accurate application and audibly describes where touch-ups may be needed.

VMA was first launched in the UK and Ireland in January 2023, and then in the United States in April 2023. The app is a product of true collaboration between the ELC team and the community. With a guiding principle of building with, and not simply for, people with low vision or blindness, the ELC team has adopted the “nothing about us, without us” approach to co-creating a truly inclusive and accessible app.

The app’s design and development was informed by user research with people from the blind and low vision community to gain a deeper understanding of their unique needs, pain points, desires and preferences. The ELC team also continues to release new features based on community feedback, creating an ever-better experience for users.

The Innovation by Design Awards, which are featured in the September 2023 issue of Fast Company, honor the designers and businesses solving the most crucial problems of today and anticipating the pressing issues of tomorrow. The competition, now in its 12th year, is one of the world’s most respected and well-recognized design awards.

The judges include renowned designers from a variety of disciplines, business leaders from some of the most innovative companies in the world, and Fast Company’s own writers and editors. Entries are judged on the key ingredients of innovation—functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, user insight, cultural impact, and business impact.

Read more on VMA’s award in the Fashion and Beauty Category, and check out the complete list of this year’s winners.

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