Faculty of Science graduate students making waves with AI wig-fitting technology

Graduate students from the Faculty of Science’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform with a surprising real-world application: online wig shopping.

Andre Huang and Anna Du created the technology for use by Essence Luxe Couture, founded by Schulich alumna and LaunchYU Accelerator entrepreneur, Akosua Asare.

Using the power of AI, customers can virtually try on wigs in the comfort of their own home. The company and its unique technology were recently featured on Dragons' Den.

Conducted under the supervision of Department of Mathematics and Statistics Professors Michael Chen and Hongmei Zhu, the project uses AI to analyze users’ facial features, skin tone and facial structure, offering virtual recommendations of styles and colours that are most suitable to customers. The project has created a dramatic increase in Essence Luxe Couture’s customer satisfaction – and an invaluable learning opportunity for students.

composite photo of five headshots

Faculty of Science researchers used Zoom to conduct meetings with Company CEO and Schulich Alumna Akosua Asare throughout the project. Pictured: Akosua Asare, Michael Chen, Hongmei Zhu, Anna Du and Andre Huang.

“AI is not the future anymore; it is already here,” says Chen. “Our economy is increasingly driven by AI, so projects like this, which offer our students essential experience developing an AI application in a real-world setting, are crucial.”

The work is supported by a Smart Computing for Innovation (SOSCIP) project with the Department of Mathematics and Statistics Associate Professor Michael Chen, a collaboration that was facilitated by Innovation York’s industry engagement unit. Backed by funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), SOSCIP’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) Accelerated Platforms were able to provide as much as 97 per cent accuracy on face shape classification.

photo of Akosua Asare on the Dragon's Den stage with heads wearing wigs on a table

Akosua Asare on Dragons' Den

“Seamlessly integrating AI into the daily lives of online shoppers is much needed now, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Zhu. “This demand will continue to increase as AI and deep learning are now an integrated and essential part of the e-commerce operation and retail experience.”

The technology supplied by Faculty of Science graduate students has undoubtedly contributed to Essence Luxe Couture’s success: the company’s founder landed a deal on Dragons' Den for a $150,000 business investment for 25 per cent of her company. You can watch Asare’s pitch on CBC's Dragons’ Den website.

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