Do you want your nails to be finished? Let the robot do it. - New York Times

2021-12-15 00:14:48 By : Ms. Vicky Lin

Start-ups are using technology to use robotic methods for manicure, providing a simple way to provide foolproof nail polish.

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This article is part of our new series Currents, which explores how rapid technological advancements can change our lives.

Omri Moran attended the first date on time, but the young woman was inexplicably late. She finally arrived, but avoided the question of her being late and said, "It's okay, you won't understand," Mr. Moran recalled.

Mr. Moran was not easily intimidated. He was the head of a geo-tracking start-up company at the time. He insisted and discovered the reason: his date was ruined and he failed to repair the new manicure she was expecting when they met. .

On that date in 2016, he didn't actually get it, but that moment also provided some kind of epiphany. "When they saw bad things, I was one of them, I just started thinking about solutions," Mr. Moran said. "I just want to know why it can't be automated. This is how we roll."

He envisioned a robotic nail art method and began to research his ideas that year and evolved into Nimble. The concept was worked on by two other start-up companies, and essentially aims to provide a simple way to provide foolproof nail polish. In addition to Mr. Moran's Nimble, Clockwork and Coral have also developed different technologies and different business models to provide customers with rapid color changes.

But don't give up your regular appointments. Although these three companies have received a large amount of external financing, these devices are still being tested and modified before they are fully listed. And none of these three provide salon-style nail art with shaping and polishing functions. Nevertheless, they may eventually disrupt the growing nail care market.

As a marketing department, nail art is a goal worth pursuing. It is estimated that the size of the nail care market is close to 10 billion U.S. dollars and may reach 11.6 billion U.S. dollars by 2027. Although the size of the color market has not yet been determined, investors find it attractive. As Julie Bornstein, the founder of Yes, the shopping app that invested in Clockwork, said, this idea resonates because nail art can be time-consuming: “I personally don’t like spending 40 minutes in a nail salon. "

The technology combines some hardware—for example, a robotic arm in some cases—to draw nails, and software that relies on machine learning to distinguish the nails from the surrounding skin. Each company uses a different method, but essentially relies on scanning thousands of nail shapes to create a database. The camera in the device takes pictures of the nails of individual users, even if it is the same person, this process will be repeated every time a manicure is performed. During the development process, the trio tried to minimize the number of moving parts and relied more on software, because moving parts would fail over time.

Clockwork was the first to enter the market, albeit in limited ways. Last Friday, the company opened a store space in the Marina District of San Francisco, basically a pop-up store expected to open for at least six months. Customers will pay $7.99 to test the device, which is slightly larger than a microwave oven. Before the trial run in 2019, Clockwork founders Renuka Apte and Aaron Feldstein conducted an iteration with Dropbox employees in their office. (At the time, the locations of the two companies were several blocks apart.)

The pop-up window is the culmination of four years of work. Ms. Apte said that Ms. Apte and Mr. Feldstein initially founded their company in 2017. They screened about 70 ideas and then identified what they called "micro products."

Their desktop devices are used in shops, offices and apartment buildings, combining computer vision and artificial intelligence to draw nails. Instead of using a robotic arm, their machine uses a so-called gantry, which is an older technology that relies on multi-axis motion for polishing.

They chose the company name of Clockwork, which is a word game about the preference for frequent manicure and the complexity of clockwork. The two worked without pay until the end of 2019, when they received $3.2 million in the first round of financing.

Coral, another company trying to disrupt the hairdressing industry, received $4.3 million in venture capital at about the same time. But the company’s CEO and co-founder Bradley Leong said that because they can’t reduce the price of the device to as low as they hoped in the current iteration, they are making it a half. Robots to reduce costs.

Nimble combines so-called computer vision with artificial intelligence and robotic arms to provide a simple 10-minute nail art in a device about the size of a toaster. In order to build brand awareness, the company started in Tel Aviv, but is now headquartered in Brooklyn. It recently launched a Kickstarter campaign and received $10 million in seed financing.

As with any robotics, whether jobs will be replaced by equipment is an unavoidable question. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 155,300 jobs in 2019; the average salary was US$27,870 per year or US$13.40 per hour (before tip). Without any interruption, the growth rate is expected to be 19%.

No futuristic machine will shape nails, so it will not interrupt part of the salon service. Ms. Apte said that she does not expect any job loss in the beauty salon because her equipment will serve as an additional service. Mr. Liang also said that he did not expect that his company’s equipment would make people unemployed because it cannot replace a complete nail art.

These three companies have different business models. Ms. Apter said that Clockwork hopes to retain ownership and its equipment can be used to quickly change colors in offices, apartment buildings or retail stores, at a price of about $10. Mr. Moran said that Nimble's products are suitable for home use, and the company plans to sell directly to consumers and retail stores, with an expected price of US$399. (Those who invest through Kickstarter are eligible for a pre-purchase price of $249). Coral is also pursuing consumers, but its model is constantly changing, Mr. Liang said, because it adjusts its equipment to keep the price below $100.

This process is fast. Mr. Moran said that Nimble will use its proprietary formula to polish and dry nails in 10 minutes. Ms. Apte admitted that although Clockwork’s nail art may take less than 10 minutes, the drying time is extra.

Although all the founders say their equipment is safe, they do not need to undergo that kind of arduous scrutiny, such as certain medical equipment, according to Tricia Kaufman, a healthcare and life sciences lawyer and partner at Stinson's law firm. Minneapolis.

Mr. Feldstein, the co-founder of Clockwork, said that their device has multiple safety features, including a plastic tip cartridge that won't pierce your fingers. It won't connect to the Internet, so the hacker threat-the Polish language rages on-is restricted. In the end, the consumer is the last line of defense, because the hand is easily pulled out.

The founders seem to be thinking about brand extension. For example, no company has yet to provide pedicure services.

But one way to expand its scope of influence seems clear. Although women traditionally get nail art, men constitute a largely unexplored market and may accept automation. According to Ms. Apte of Clockwork, “We heard that they would rather let a robot do it than sit in a nail salon.”

As for Mr. Moran, that first date is worth the wait. Dar Moran is now his wife. And, he said, "She is the number one customer."