MAC Virtual Try-on Mirror review

It's crazy how well MAC's Virtual Try-On Mirror can mimic makeup

Feeling completely lost with makeup? MAC’s Virtual Try-On Mirror lets you try on various looks without making a mess.

Shopping for makeup can be a little overwhelming. While we do have social media and YouTube creators to thank for the influx of beauty gurus and makeup tutorials, it’s common to think you won’t be able to pull off stellar and dramatic looks. But what if all you needed was augmented reality (AR) to give you that extra boost of confidence? MAC Cosmetics’ new beauty mirror gives users the opportunity to try on different makeup looks in real-time, with the help of ModiFace’s AR technology.

We had the opportunity to test out the MAC Virtual Try-On Mirror at the MAC Cosmetics retail store in New York City. It’s genuinely useful, and it realistically simulates a desired look in a split second.

Easy-to-use interface

The Virtual Try-On Mirror isn’t really a mirror. It’s a display, which sort of looks like an iPad at first glance, and it will only light up when you tap the screen. There’s a camera located at the top, and like your selfie camera on your phone, you’ll see your face on the screen. The frame around the screen acts as a studio light, brightening up your face so you can try makeup on without worrying about awkward shadows, and there’s a knob on the bottom you can turn to adjust the light’s intensity.

Using the menu at the bottom of the screen, tap on a specific makeup category – lipstick, eyeshadow, or blush – slide your finger across the variety of different color options, and tap on the one you prefer. Like a Snapchat face filter, it will then instantly appear on your lips, eyes, or cheeks, and you can see the name and photo of the exact product you’re trying on to the left of the screen.

The makeup filters are applied instantly, without having to wait for it to load.

The before and after tool adds a vertical slider you can slide around to compare how you look with the makeup on and off, or you can use the split screen mode to see half your face without makeup, and the other half with it.

All the products used to create a look will appear in a list on the screen once you’re done trying them out. You can send the list via email along with a photo or GIF of yourself wearing it, or if you want to move to another look, you can favorite specific products which will stay in the “My Faves” section on the screen to refer back to later.

Quick response-rate with ModiFace technology

ModiFace, the company behind the AR technology, has pumped 10 years of engineering into creating a variety of product SDKs — software development kits – meant specifically for real-time beauty-try-on simulations.

We were already familiar with ModiFace’s AR tech after using its Hair Color app. Through live video tracking, the app detects your hair in each frame and adjusts the coloration instantly so you can try out a variety of different-colored hairstyles. We loved how it captured everything from the smallest fly away right down to the texture of our hair.

The Virtual Try-On Mirror uses similar technology for your face, but instead of detecting hair, it focuses on facial tracking and 3D video makeup rendering. The makeup filters are mapped to the face at 30 frames per second, and it’s impressive how well it works. The makeup filters are applied instantly, without having to wait for it to load, and they do a great job of accurately mapping to the face and staying on even as you move your head around.

We did notice it made our face look a tad airbrushed. While it’s great to look completely free of blemishes and wrinkles, it’s important to note the makeup filter won’t look exactly the same as applying it in real life. It does come incredibly close, though, and it’s the best implementation we’ve seen to date compared to other apps.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you’re feeling completely lost and don’t know what look you want to go for, the Virtual Try-On Mirror certainly can help. You’ll find a curated set of 29 custom eyeshadow looks by MAC makeup artists, as well as blush and lipstick. You can also have the specific looks done in-store. We’d love to see an option to virtually try foundation in the future, and even more makeup options.

Ranging from smoky eye or eccentric to bright or more natural, it’s a great tool to visualize what you might look like without any effort. It’s even more useful for those with sensitive skin — sometimes taking your makeup on and off multiple times can cause the product to look different than it would if your skin weren’t so raw. With the Virtual Mirror, it’s easy to jump between looks without irritating your skin. Gone are the days of walking out the store with hands covered in tons of swatches. Germaphobes out there will also appreciate never having to touch anything but the mirror.

MAC Virtual Try-on Mirror
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

The MAC Virtual Try-On Mirror is great to have while shopping in-store, but the technology doesn’t end there. Sephora also uses the ModiFace technology in its app under a section called “Product Try-On.” You get the exact same experience as you would in a MAC store, but from the comfort of your home.

The Virtual Try-On Mirror is available in MAC stores around the U.S. The company plans to implement them in its global retail locations by 2018.

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