Monday, February 23, 2015

Completing a wardrobe with Kokko

Robert Hunt likes to start his color science lessons with the problem of completing a wardrobe. He starts with some observations:

  • If you want to buy a skirt or a pair of slacks to match a jacket, you cannot match the color by memory — you have to take the jacket with you
  • Just matching in the store light is insufficient, you have to match also under the incandescent light in the dressing room and outdoors
  • You always get the opinion of your companion or the store clerk

This leads to the three fundamental components of measuring color:

  • Light sources
  • Samples illuminated by them
  • Observers

When we complete our wardrobe, we are not interested at measuring colors, but into matching colors. This may sound easier than measuring color by making measurements and comparing the above three parameters, but it is not. In fact, color is not a physical phenomenon, so we cannot measure it. Color is an illusion that takes place in our mind. What we really have to do is to predict an illusion based on physical measurements, which is very difficult, because we cannot measure our mind.

With this, color science has more to do with art than with physics: color scientists have to develop a deep intuition of color perception, otherwise they are not able to interpret the values delivered by their instruments. This is even more so, when instead of just matching colors we need to assess things like the readability of colored text on colored background, or when we need to create a palette of colors that go well together.

Even such a mundane task as determining the best foundation for one's complexion requires a lot of science and intuition. Cosmetologists can do it almost completely with intuition, but it takes them a long time to develop this intuition. What scientists and engineers can do, is to try to put the cosmetologist or color consultant in a box, viz. into a mobile device.

This is what Nina Bhatti has set out to do with her new company Kokko. Kokko's scientifically developed color matching technology enables brands and retailers to revolutionize ways to shop online—specifically when color selection matters the most.

Kokko's solution for demystifying online purchasing of color cosmetics is called ColorSisters. By using the camera on any smart-phone with the specially printed color chart, Kokko's proprietary software can precisely measure skin tone and offer personalized makeup recommendations—proven to be as accurate as professional makeup artists' recommendations.