Il Makiage, the global beauty brand known for its unapologetic declaration that “minimalism is dead,” announced last month that it will continue to drive the digital revolution of the beauty and wellness space by acquiring Voyage81, a deep-tech AI-based computation imaging startup from Israel. This is the second technology acquisition for the makeup brand in 24 months.
The US-based cosmetics company, which has been called one of the fastest-growing beauty brand in the US, will use Voyage81’s patented hyperspectral imaging technology for smartphones to enhance its own machine learning capabilities and AI-powered algorithm technologies.
Il Makiage was founded in 1972 by Ilana Harkavi, a New York-based makeup artist. In June 2017, L Catterton, an American-French private equity company based in Greenwich, Connecticut, purchased a minority stake in the company for $29 million. After this initial investment, the brother and sister team of Oran Holtzman and Shiran Holtman-Erel, who had previously purchased the brand, relaunched it in 2018 with a push toward a digital approach.
A year later, Il Makiage announced the official launch of their PowerMatch algorithm, which utilizes machine learning to match a consumer’s foundation with more than 90 percent accuracy, without ever seeing their face. The makeup brand’s tech team combined hundreds of thousands of data points and information on 700 different skin tone combinations to create this algorithm and built a database that uses machine learning that predicts the appropriate correction foundation.
As the cosmetics company continues its pursuit of digital disruption, it has taken it one step further with Voyage81. In the announcement highlighting the acquisition, Il Makiage said “the implications of the Voyage81’s technology for the beauty and wellness industries are endless.”
Voyage81’s software is capable of mapping and analyzing skin and hair features, detecting facial blood flows, and creating melanin and hemoglobin maps from a simple smartphone camera photo. The technology, combined with Il Makiage’s current AI algorithms will leverage users’ personal smartphone cameras to provide online matching capabilities to users of the makeup company and its digital beauty and wellness brands.
“The core of what we do is recovering spectral information from standard cameras,” Dr. Boaz Arad, co-founder and CTO of Voyage81 who is now also Chief Vision Office of Il Makiage, tells NoCamels “This allows us to do material sensing.”
Material sensing refers to the process where material or material composition is identified in the same way a face or fingerprint can identify a person.
“[With material sensing,] you can analyze the hemoglobin and melanin content. You can conceivably even look at things like blood oxidation just from an image. You can track different skin and even hair properties understand the health of your skin. That is very attractive for many companies since up until that point, that could only be done in a lab with some very dedicated and expensive equipment,” he adds. “Bringing this into the home, especially when we’ve seen all these changes in telemedicine and consumer experiences and in the COVID era, suddenly that became even more important.”
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While you can download Voyage81’s tech into an existing camera, the company integrates it into a new camera to tweak the hardware at a production phase. “This means we can provide not only material sensing but also improved low light capabilities,” Arad explains. By replacing the typical red, green and blue filters of the camera, more lights can reach the sensor and make for a better performance. While this isn’t an entirely new concept, our spectral recovery technology is the only one that allows us to be very liberal with the filter selection and still recover accurate color.”
“To the best of my knowledge, we’re the only ones that have been doing this,” he adds.
Investing in hyperspectral imaging
Voyage81 was founded in 2019 by CEO Niv Price, former head of R&D at Unit 81, the elite technological unit in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Other co-founders include Dr. Rafi Gidron, a well-known Israeli high-tech serial entrepreneur, Omer Shwartz (Software Lead),, a Ph.D. in cybersecurity, and Arad.
Following his Master’s at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2012, Arad connected with the company’s current CEO Price and Gidron, co-founder, through BGN Technologies, the technology company of Ben-Gurion University. Voyage81’s tech was developed based on the doctoral research of Arad, who examined the differences between hyperspectral information from RGB data in comparison to professional camera results. In an exciting discovery, he found that the results were almost comparable.
Voyage 81 began by focusing on the automotive industry, particularly honing in on the use of computer vision to discern road debris. While they were fairly successful in implementing their tech to recognize various shapes, sizes, and textures of objects on the road — and even had a few deals and partnerships in the works — the COVID-19 outbreak made the company change course.
“An automotive company we were working with came to us and said, we want to keep doing this, but take into account that our new technology integration plans have been pushed back by three years,” Arad explains. “This was a bit too long for us. So we pivoted into the cellular industry.”
“We were always looking to see what we could do with material sensing and how we can leverage this hyperspectral information that we were collecting, One of the things that came up was wellness. Even before we had met Il Makiage, we did a wellness focus project with a cellular provide, which was focused on skin health,” he says, “I think for wellness, material sensing is a game-changer because, being able to understand the chemical composition of somebody’s skin can allow you to do amazing things.”
Voyage81’s team has also been integrated within Il Makiage’s data science capabilities and its matching algorithms to serve the company’s tens of millions of users and customers, taking leadership roles within the company.
“For the past two years, we have been searching for computational imaging solutions that can work in beauty and wellness to further advance our existing AI capabilities. I have met dozens of computer vision startups but could not find a technology that can fit our industry and was strong enough to fulfill our goals,” Il Makiage CEO Oran Holtzman said, “Bringing on Voyage81’s patented technology and exceptional team to our tech and data science departments is a huge win for our company’s future, our users, and the industry at-large.”