Saturday, 17 January 2015

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall...

Earlier this month, the annual Consumer Electronic Show was held in Las Vegas and gave technology aficionados a platform to showcase their latest and greatest projects to the technology world. From a super thin Sony TV to Mercedes-Benz' self-driving car concept, there was a massive variety on offer, solving the problems you didn't even know you had until now. But, one product in particular caught my attention - Panasonic's Smart Mirror.

The digital-display mirror can alter the image reflected back to you, depending on what function you select. You can try out different make-up looks, add on facial hair and change your hair style. If you've been thinking about a new look for yourself but have been put off by not being sure if you'll suit it, then this mirror will show you exactly how you'd look. Preparing for a night out and can't decide what make up look to go for? Ask the mirror. Considering growing a beard but not sure you'd work it? Ask the mirror. This could be super useful and pretty damn cool! 

However, this is not the mirror's only function and this is where I see a problem. It will also point out any flaws on your face and suggest products in order to rectify these. Ever had one of those uber paranoid days where you hate everything you see and thought 'I know what will help, someone else pointing out the things I can't even notice'? No, me neither. In a society where outward appearance seems to be of vital importance, our faces and bodies are picked apart daily, with persistent reminders of how we 'should' look. People can get caught up in striving to achieve this perfect image, forgetting that everyone's own idea of this is different. Surely this technology will only reinforce this warped concept of one ideal beauty. 

Moreover, it is unclear as to what image this mirror is using to point out your perceived flaws. Everyone has their own insecurities about their appearance and that is individual to each person. Take me for example - I find freckles on other girls gorgeous, yet I'm not such a fan when mine come out in the summer. A flaw to one person, is beautiful to another. When you look in to this mirror, it will point out the slightest blemish, wrinkle and mark according to its predetermined ideal. Panasonic would need to be very careful about its programming in regards to this, ensuring it isn't just adhering to the western concept of beauty like I am almost expecting. Imperfections are what make us human and reflect the life we are living. I'm totally at ease with my faint laughter lines and forehead wrinkle when I think too hard. This concept runs the risk of creating insecurity where it didn't exist before, by labeling something as a flaw. 

Following this, the mirror has the ability to suggest products you can purchase in order to correct these 'flaws', for example a wrinkle minimising cream. But, my concern with this is can I be sure the products are being suggested to me because they are the most appropriate, or because the brands have paid to be suggested?  I'm not questioning the moral integrity of Panasonic at all here, but we live in a massively consumerist world and so this last suggestion is completely plausible. I don't want to be taken advantage of by big brands who have bought my attention without my knowledge, I would rather be offered something that will help. 

Although, I should point out that it has been inferred the main audience for this technology would be business to business to sales, such as beauty salons, and so they don't seem to currently have the intention of selling widely to individuals. This could mean you would have to seek out an analysis by the mirror, and so you are looking for any imperfections to be highlighted. 

The Smart Mirror is still at the protype stage and is therefore a good few years off being available for purchase. It's fun to see whether I'd suit a big ol' bushy beard, but do we need yet another helping hand in criticising our natural selves? 

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