Are consumers ready to let an AI robot polish their nails or apply artificial lashes? Here, Target and Ulta Beauty reveal their plans.

Augmented reality, which revolutionized virtual product try-ons over the past five years, was just the first step in changing how consumers interact with beauty. Try-on apps flourished during the pandemic and continue to gain traction. Now, technology is making waves in beauty applications from manicures to lashes.

Currently, six Target locations offer Clockwork MiniCures—a robotic device that applies nail polish in under 10 minutes, according to company co-founder and CEO Renuka Apte. The locations are based in Minnesota, Texas, and California.

The Clockwork MiniCure is trending on TikTok under #robotmanicure with headlines such as, “The Future of Manicures” and “Best $8 You Will Spend on Your Nails.”

Renuka saw the need for a fast, easy, and reasonably priced option to getting a manicure to fit her own busy lifestyle. “People spend an hour per week on their nails; we cut that down to under 10 minutes,” Renuka said of the Clockwork MiniCure robotic manicure.

Target currently offers a treatment for $8 for first-timers, which increases to $10 for future manicures. Appointments can be booked online, and an associate is nearby to assist if needed.

The service uses a combination of 3D and AI technology to paint nails. Consumers need to have polish-free nails to start and can select from more than 25 shades including fashion-forward options by OPI, Essie, Zoya, and the company’s own products. Users pick a color and load a cartridge to dispense the lacquer that is applied to each talon one by one.

The machine doesn’t mimic a hands-on experience with filing and cuticle care, but the polish application is precise. The system builds a multidimensional map of the user’s fingers. “Our AI can identify edges within sub-millimeter level accuracy,” said Renuka.

The return on investment goes beyond revenue, said Renuka. “It draws customers into stores and builds shoppers’ baskets,” she said of the unit, which is stationed near the beauty department.

Nail art isn’t part of Clockwork’s offer, but a company called Fingernails2Go recently launched a countertop printer that can produce and apply customized nail art. Customers can select from preloaded designs or upload their own photos—say of their dog, friends, or a college logo.

The concept was created by an entrepreneur who couldn’t believe how long it took his wife to get manicures and nail art. Teaming up with HP and NewVisions, he created the concept for Fingernails2Go.

Users must first apply a base coat and then stick their hands into the printer where designs are printed in under three seconds. Artificial nails can also be produced to be glued onto nails.

Another arduous beauty task, applying artificial lashes, is being addressed by robots.

Ulta Beauty is among the investors in LUMM Precision Lash, a robotic technology designed specifically for the application of lash extensions. The company recently underwent a funding round that will support the build of its next-generation machines that will be piloted with one of the top five leading U.S. cosmetics brands.

“Our support for LUUM reinforces Ulta Beauty’s belief in the critical role advanced technologies such as robotics play in the future of beauty,” said Prama Bhatt, Chief Digital Officer, Ulta Beauty, adding the retailer has its eye on more beauty technology breakthroughs.

LUMM is positioned as an upgrade to the eyelash extension process. The global eyelash industry is said to exceed $20 billion in sales and is growing at double-digit rates. “This is an industry that needs to improve upon its pain points,” said Rachel Gold, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer for LUUM.

Precision is key when it comes to eyes. The LUUM robot detects the distance from the eye via barcodes placed underneath consumers’ orbs. With robotic wands, LUUM completes an eyelash extension service approximately two times faster than the industry standard and delivers a substantial savings, the company said.

LUUM is perfect for robotics, according to the company’s CEO and co-founder Nathan Harding, because it is labor intensive and time-consuming. “With LUUM you can get lashes done during a coffee break. And we are seeing people coming back, so it produces a reoccurring revenue.”