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An App to Save Our Oceans: Reducing the impact on our environment

Using object recognition technology, we helped LUSH develop LUSH Lens to raise awareness of plastic pollution. With the LUSH Lens app, there's no need for packaging! All the information customers need is at their fingertips.

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Phone scanning a lush product

How Technology Can Help E-commerce Brands Reduce Packaging

Plastic is rubbish, and the primary contributor is product packaging. A customer buys an item, removes the wrapping and then all too often throws it away. Our disposable culture is causing a crisis, eight million tons of plastic debris is entering our oceans every year and killing marine wildlife.

Worldwide awareness of this pollution problem is increasing and global campaigns are putting pressure on businesses and e-commerce retailers to reduce their plastic output.

One brand that digital product company 3 SIDED CUBE is proud to support is Lush, the cosmetics brand has been at the forefront of protecting the environment and other ethical causes for decades. Whilst other retailers are playing catch up, Lush has been leading the way in getting rid of unnecessary packaging. Currently, over 40% of Lush’s product range is completely free of packaging or ‘naked’ as they call it, but in early June the company went a step further and opened a naked shop in Milan, Italy which is 100% packaging free. But, how do you provide the necessary information that consumers require when making a purchase… enter digital technology.

The Challenge

Lush asked 3 SIDED CUBE to aid them in the ambitious move to open the world’s first package-free cosmetics store. Lush needed a way of utilising technology to create a completely new and unique experience for customers visiting the concept store in Milan.

We knew image-recognition technology built into an app on mobile devices could identify the distinctive Lush Naked range. The key to this was the use the machine learning ability of the technology to identify a product through a mobile device’s camera and then delivering all the relevant information from product names to descriptions, ingredients and even health benefits.

Scanning a Lush product with object recognition and getting information

THE SOLUTION

Developed with the Lush’s in-house digital team, we created ‘Lush Lens’, an app that enabled users to scan the package-free products directly in store. It then uses machine learning image recognition to match the image with a database and provide the necessary product information, that would usually be included in the (now redundant) packaging.

The app had to recognise products including soap bars, bath bombs and solid shower gels as well as the variations of these; such as different colours, shapes and pattern differences.

WHAT DOES THE APP DO?

Recognising Products

The app is trained to recognise hundreds of Lush products, using a database of images which instruct the app what it is viewing, it differentiates between shapes, colours, patterns and textures to accurately name each product as it's displayed to the camera.

Displaying Information

Customers need to know product names, descriptions and ingredients, the app even tells the origins of each product and how it benefits their health. Accessing data and displaying information in a fraction of a second and giving customers the chance to interact with the different pieces of information.

Creating Experiences

The app is pre-installed onto in-store Fairphone devices so that users can simply pick up a device and go! Without having to download apps and get them set-up before entering the store, they could move around product to product scanning anything that sparks their interest.

Machine Learning

The app uses machine learning to recognise products, it can be trained to recognise any new products that Lush plan on launching under their package-free range. This is not limited to products either as the app could be trained to recognise almost anything.

Lush lens milan trial

Improving the in-store consumer experience with technology.

The initial trial in Milan launched to coincide with World Ocean Day after a successful trial Lush Lens has been used in Naked stores in Berlin with more to come in the near future.

We believe tech can be built for the greater good and impact positive social change.

Jack Constantine, Founder, Lush

Lush Lens is powered by Tensorflow from Google, an open source machine learning framework. Using this tech we are able to use machine learning to recognise objects with a simple scan of a product with your smartphone. This has helped to improve the in-store experience making it fun and informative in an environmentally-conscious way.

With this prototype mobile app, we've put new technologies (ML) to a good use in our mission to eliminate more packaging and further educate our customers on our unique cosmetics.

Adam Goswell, Technology R&D, Lush

At 3 SIDED CUBE, our mission is to pioneer Tech For Good through life-saving, life-changing digital solutions that create social impact and make the world a better place. So it makes sense that we wanted to get behind Lush’s cause and help reduce the impact that plastics have on our environment.

Image credits: Lush Digital

Fun Fact

We first explored the tech used in this project during an Innovation Time experiment (an initiative which gives members of the team a week to work on pilot projects). The original idea was to create an app for the visually impaired, which mimics the human eye by recognising what’s in front of you.

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