When I first watched this TeleBeauty video, I thought it seemed a bit gimmicky. However, the more I think about it, the more I believe it addresses a real concern and may be the harbinger of more to come.
When I talk about the benefits of video for managing a remotely based team, I always get a small amount of pushback. There is a vocal minority who strongly believes that one of the best things about working at home is being casual and comfy. They don’t want to dress up for the video meeting.
On the one hand, it’s seemly easy to dismiss this complaint. You can say that people should be relatively clean and crisp even if they are working at home, and it’s not too troublesome to keep a work shirt nearby for video meetings. Problem solved, except when it comes to makeup. It’s one thing to spend 30 minutes applying makeup for a day at the office. It is quite another thing to spend 30 minutes applying makeup for a 15 minute video meeting.
Virtual makeup is an obvious solution to this problem. Snapchat has made it clear that we are very comfortable using filters to digitally alter our appearances in videos. If we can use Snapchat to give ourselves funny puppy dog ears in a video, we can use TeleBeauty to apply virtual makeup. I think it’s a little interesting that this app comes from the Shiseido cosmetics company, and not from the existing video app community. Then again, who would be better than a cosmetics company to design the actual virtual makeup styles? The app currently supports 4 different looks; cool, feminine, natural, and trendy.
I am concerned however, that this may be a slippery slope towards more and more augmentation of our personal realities. How much can I digitally “clean up” my appearance before it stops being me? Let’s say the next version of this app caters to men by removing 5 o’clock stubble. Would it be unethical or deceptive to use that? After all, it’s just a minor alteration, and one I can easily achieve in without the digital enhancement by simply shaving. But what if I take it to the next level? My nose is a little bent from a rollerblading accident in my youth, could we straighten that out? Would the result be unethically deceptive to the people I meet with?
As long as we are cleaning things up, can we get rid of the grays in my hair? Even out my features a bit? Where do we draw the line? Why not just digitally alter me so I look like Bradley Cooper? I think my presentations would have a lot more impact and my meetings would be a lot more effective if I looked like Bradley Cooper.
My understanding is that this service is still in the prototype stage, and that they are also working on a way to blur the area behind you. We should keep our workspaces clean regardless, but I can see the privacy benefits even if you do have a tidy home office.
Whether or not virtual makeup is a success, I think there is no question that we will be using more augmented video tools in the future. The only question is how far will it go?