HP Looks to Add Color to Mobile Phones

Hewlett-Packard (HP) could soon turn mobile phones into shopping advisers with a color-matching prototype technology it demonstrated on Wednesday.

The Color Match mobile service technology, developed by HP Labs, combines color science, imaging science and mobile networking technology to match colors that complement each other and provide product advice over a cell phone.

The technology can be used in anything that requires the assessment of color application, said Nina Bhatti, principal scientist at the digital imaging and printing lab in HP Labs. It is particularly applicable to cosmetics, where buyers can use the service to buy a product that matches their skin color, she said.


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Users take a photograph of themselves while holding a specialized color chart under their faces. The picture is sent using multimedia messaging service to an "advisory service" on a server. Software on the server seeks out corrections in the image; it locates the face, adjusts lighting and calibrates the color. Then skin pixels culled from a person's face on the corrected image are compared to an existing database of previously analyzed images. Based on the analysis, the advisory service sends a return short-message service recommending what cosmetic color and shades would best match the skin color. The service returned recommendations in a matter of seconds in the demonstration.

Oftentimes stores don't offer the right product to match skin color, and this mobile application makes the phone a cosmetics adviser, Bhatti said.

Among other applications, the service will be able to make recommendations to match and recommend colors for ties, pants and suits, Bhatti said. Images can be taken with any cell phone camera, and the mobile service will work with any service provider.

For consumers, there's a value proposition in this technology: Take a picture and get advice, Bhatti said. While the technology is not out yet, it was developed with the view of making it a consumer application, Bhatti said. HP is seeking partners to make this technology available to consumers, the company said.

This service can be implemented by retailers and other consumer goods companies to help users select the products they need, according to HP.

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