MWC: Completely superfluous ‘AI’ added to consumer items

Naked Security is reporting this week from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

All of a sudden, Olay – famous for its skincare products and cheering inducements to “Love the skin you’re in” – has an artificial intelligence (AI) capability. You heard it right: Olay, maker of your mum’s face cream, is now in the machine intelligence game.

Naked Security reported on a crop of “smart” devices that are anything but smart from the CES tech show in Las Vegas in January, but tech companies have moved on for MWC, focusing instead on adding AI and machine learning to products that would do just as well without them.

With the launch of Olay Skin Advisor, an app that claims to reveal women’s true “skin age” based on a selfie, Olay’s new skinbot delivers personalised product information based on perceived “improvement areas”.

So now Olay’s answer to HAL 9000 wants you to know that your skin might not be quite so loveable after all. That blotch on your left cheek – it could do with some work. The greasy patch on your nose – there’s a potion for that!

Olay claims to be the first company of its kind to use such deep learning technology, and has the entirely modest aim of “transforming the way that women shop for beauty products”. Indeed, so serious is it about these new opportunities that it’s is sending a whole team of scientists, researchers and AI experts to Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in order to big up its credentials.

And Olay is far from being the only non-tech company at the event pushing a dubious AI message. Somewhat bizarrely, machine learning has also found its way into the dental hygiene segment, including through an AI-enabled toothbrush called Ara.

Designations such as “smart toothbrush” are clearly now entirely insufficient; this is a dental implement with actual intelligence! You can bet that Isaac Asimov never saw that one coming.

Ara apparently has AI embedded directly in the brush handle, enabling it to capture data about brushing efficiency and thereby remove more bacteria, reduce plaque and prevent gingivitis.

Kolibree, the product’s manufacturer, claims that it uses patent-pending M2M technology to provide a “personalised, interactive tooth brushing experience”; each time the user brushes, embedded algorithms in the toothbrush learn the user’s brushing pattern, meaning it can make personalised recommendations.

Of course, the toothbrush also syncs with the obligatory app, which serves as a personal and highly useful record of your brushing history. The possibilities are therefore endless. In future years, feeling nostalgic perhaps on a rainy Sunday afternoon sometime in the early 2020s, you might be tempted to access the record of that particularly vigorous session back in March ’17… Such is the transformative power of technology.