Meet the robot that offers quick, cheap automated manicures

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San Francisco-based startup up called Clockwork goes with the tagline: "The first robot manicure for unstoppable humans". It promises a fast, affordable and accurate manicure but done by a robot.  

Renuka Apte, Clockwork's founder and CEO, says: "I had this ongoing frustration for many years because I used to do a bunch of beauty routines - nails included - and I would feel like I was spending just a ton of time on them." And so, the idea for the robot manicurist was born.

READ MORE | How anti-biting polishes can help you break nervous habits instead of your nails 

"We've tried to make it as intuitive as possible. You load a cartridge into the machine - it's kind of like loading an espresso pod, a coffee pod, and then you place your hand on the hand rest and that's all the user has to do. What the machine is doing is sort of taking a bunch of pictures of a person's finger and building a 3D map and that 3D map gets sent to an AI that we've built, which identifies edges of the nail. It can do this at submillimeter accuracy so that's pretty cool. And then the algorithms instructs the robot where it should go to put the polish on your nail.

"This is really a convenience thing so we want to be in office buildings when you're taking a break or in residential complexes, it should be at airports where people are waiting," says Renuka.

She says in the U.S. alone the nail service industry is estimated to be about $8.5 billion (more than R121 billion) and about six times more worldwide but suspects it may be more.

"The interesting thing here is that we aren't just catering to people who already get their nails done. The number of people who've come here on this store tell us, 'oh my god I never get my nails done, I don't have the time for it so this way I'm able to do something way quicker than I could do at home - way better than I could do at home'. So we really see this as expanding that market," she adds. 

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It's easy to imagine how useful having your nails done by a robot can be during these pandemic times, but how could it impact the industry in the long term?

Estasha Goodwin, owner of Heart & Sol Nails says, "I understand the urgency of something quick, easy and cheap - which is what we gravitate towards now in the 'future' but there's something to say about a luxury, customisable, one-on-one service that I think is what we actually do need and what is actually of value.

"But, I don't feel quite intimidated because that's not necessarily my client and there is a lane for that. We not only work on your nail health, we do really detailed cuticle work and make everything look really clean, moisturise you, there's nail art that can be totally customisable - your colours, things that motivate you, make you feel beautiful - and that's something a robot just can't provide, unfortunately."

Would you ever choose to have your nails done solely by a robot? Let us know here

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