How L’Oréal designed the UV Sense to fit on your fingernail

UV Sense
L'Oreal

Beauty tech is still in its infancy, but lifestyle brands are slowly warming up to the idea of incorporating technology to improve user experience and sometimes, the product itself. We’ve seen a smart hairbrush that can determine the quality of your hair, a smart mirror that can identify the health of your skin, and now there’s nail art that can track exposure to ultraviolet radiation when you’re out and about.

The UV Sense is a battery-free wearable electric sensor you stick onto your fingernail. It can measure UV exposure, which you can track via a companion app on your smartphone. It’s from L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, which has created products such as the Makeup Genius app, where people can try different looks using a smartphone camera, and Le Teint Particulier an in-store device that scans your skin to create custom foundation for you.

The tricky part about the UV Sense is that if people are supposed to wear it 24/7, it has to look good and feel comfortable. We spoke to the team behind this micro wearable to see how they managed the feat.

From a temporary patch to nail art

The UV Sense may be L’Oréal’s smallest battery-free wearable, but it isn’t the company’s first device to measure UV exposure. Back in 2016, the company released My UV Patch (marketed under the La Roche-Posay brand), and it looked more like a temporary tattoo.

UV Sense
L'Oreal

L’Oréal Technology Incubator’s Global Vice President, Guive Balooch, and his team knew wearing a sticker daily wasn’t practical, unless at the beach or swimming pool.

To help come up with a new design and form for the UV Sense, Balooch brought back Swiss designer and Fuseproject founder, Yves Béhar, who designed the original My UV Patch.

“There are no moving parts or buttons, and no physical interfaces to the device. It all happens wirelessly to the phone.”

“The original UV Patch was an incredible feat in technology, however it was strongly lacking a design component,” Béhar told Digital Trends. “The product was unnecessarily large, and was being presented as a novelty item. If you’re asking someone to wear a product 24/7, it should be comfortable, beautiful, fit [into] their personal style, and provide necessary insights into our daily [lives].”

But figuring out the formula for a hassle-free and comfortable device required highlighting pain points that exist within wearable technology today. Balooch and his team narrowed it down to two major issues: Having to charge a battery, and the lack of real estate on people’s wrists. Balooch called in a team of engineers from Northwestern University, who brought up the idea of flexible electronics that don’t need a battery. Earlier this year, Digital Trends spoke to John Rogers, a Northwestern engineer who was a part of the team.

“From a user standpoint, it’s hard to imagine anything simpler, in the sense that you never have to worry if your battery is charged up since it doesn’t need one,” Rogers said. “There are no moving parts or buttons, and no physical interfaces to the device. It all happens wirelessly to the phone.”

UV Sense
L'Oreal

Rogers said his team did face challenges developing the UV Sense, specifically when it came to developing designs for the antenna and electronic circuit that would enable it to work with a smartphone. But once those issues were solved, it “opened up the ability to mount technology in places that were previously not considered.”

Some of the “places” Rogers is referring to are fingernails. Through testing, the L’Oréal team found that placing the UV Sense on nails returned the most accurate feedback to UV exposure. Since taking the battery out helped create a thinner and smaller sensor, Béhar saw the opportunity to disguise it as nail art. For even more versatility, the team is in the process of creating bracelets and watch accessories with the sensor, as well as clips that can attach to sunglasses.

How the UV Sense works

The UV Sense is dead simple to use. Stick it on your nail, swipe it over your iPhone or Android phone, and it will wirelessly transfer UV exposure data to the companion app using near-field communication (NFC). It’s the NFC chip that also charges the device through the data transfer process.

UV Sense itself strictly measures UV exposure. The app is where you can find additional info like allergens and pollution.

Apply the sensor to a nail using an adhesive, and you can reapply it using additional adhesives that come packaged in the box. Placing it on your thumbnail exposes the UV Sense to optimal sunlight, and the sensor is activated by UVA and UVB rays. Along with your UV report, you’ll also get some advice on on avoiding the sun, and recommendations on L’Oreal products to purchase.

The data the sensor collects is accurate, or at least that’s what L’Oreal claims.

“People would wear the sensor and then we’d have a clunky expensive detector that was right next to it, and [we’d] test the data to make sure we’re really measuring the UV correctly,” Balooch said. “It’s very important to us [and] it’s something we really need to be accurate on.”

UV Sense
L'Oreal

It’s important to note the UV Sense itself strictly measures UV exposure. The app is where you can find additional information such as allergens, pollution, and other factors in the environment that can effect your skin. While wearing the sensor does provide you with your own personalized metrics when it comes to your UV exposure, you can still use the app without it to get a more general sense of what else is around you.

Pilot program and launch

The UV Sense will launch in the U.S. this summer as a pilot program. The company will continue to do testing with dermatologists and consumers, which allows L’Oreal to get even more feedback to improve the experience even better.

L’Oreal plans on launching the UV Sense under the La Roche-Posay brand worldwide in 2019.

“Our question has always been [how] to bring more performance to the product,” Balooch said. “So we took on this challenge of figuring out how could we make a wearable that’s interesting and exciting technologically, [that] could also give the user some tools to understand the personal level of exposure and what they could do with that information.”

After the pilot program, L’Oreal plans on launching the UV Sense under the La Roche-Posay brand worldwide in 2019. A price for the wearable hasn’t been set yet.

Mobile

The Palm has been revived, and is now available in the U.S. and U.K.

A reboot of the classic Palm is finally here and it's tiny. It syncs to your phone and acts as a secondary device -- with a feature to help you disconnect from technology. The Palm will be available exclusively through Verizon for $350.
Smart Home

Ring Alarm vs. Nest Secure: Which one is right for you?

Thanks to the advance of technology, it's become really easy nowadays to secure your home and protect it from thieves, intruders, and unwanted guests. Which one of these two top contenders is right for you?
Home Theater

OLED or LED? We pick the winner in the battle of competing TV tech

The acronyms OLED and LED sound and look very similar, but the two technologies are vastly different in terms of engineering, performance, and capabilities. Which technology wins when you pit OLED versus LED in a TV?
Smart Home

Is old-school Airstream finally embracing smart home technology?

Airstream's vintage-looking trailers have a huge audience but its 2019 Classic camping trailers are getting a modern upgrade with the addition of app-controlled smart home technology to bring modern convenience online.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Deals

Need a last-minute gift? Get an iPhone Wireless Charger for under $20

Whether you're looking for stocking stuffers or gift ideas, these deals from Mophie, Anker, and Yootech can get you a wireless charging pad for cheap. Don't settle for wired charging if you don't have to.
Mobile

The OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition comes with 10GB of RAM, and supercar style

OnePlus has partnered with McLaren F1, creating the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition. With 10GB of RAM and all the usual top-level hardware, this new flagship killer comes with some new design touches.
Mobile

New Moment photo cases and lenses are a big plus for the OnePlus 6

Moment has announced that it is now releasing photo cases and lenses for the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T, giving owners of those phones the ability to add on some high-quality photographic accessories.
Mobile

Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition: Everything you need to know

The Vivo Nex Dual Edition is the gorgeous flagship we need to close out 2018. In addition to dual screens, the Nex Dual Edition has some other awesome features. Here's everything you need to know about the new Vivo Nex Dual Edition.
Mobile

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Deals

REI clearance sale extends discounts on Garmin, Fitbit, and GoPro devices

Beyond the things you typically expect to find at REI — like tents, skis, and jackets — there are tons of great deals on quality tech foryour outdoor adventures. From smartwatches to action cameras, here are the best tech deals.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.