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HARDWARE

Hair Today. . .

A look at some technology that allows hair-salon customers to see how their hair will look before it's cut.
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Now, we'll just take a little bit off so it's not in your eyes," says Judy Steele. Snip, snip. Anne Roman's bangs are gone. Not to worry; if she's not happy, they can go right back on. That's because Steele is doing the snipping with a light pen, not scissors, on a computer image of Roman. After considering several different digital do's, Roman picks her favorites and gets a videotape of the session and a multihairdo photograph to take home. But the next client, 60-something-year-old Eleanor, refuses the souvenirs. "My family will think I'm nuts," she laughs and grabs her cane to leave.

It's Saturday at Maria's Hair Salon, in South Boston, a conservative, working-class enclave of the city. Ordinarily, the only technology to be found in Maria Margaca's shop is a German foam-making device. But when Margaca saw Steele demonstrating the hairdo imaging system at a trade show, she booked a visit on the spot.

Today the little shop is the place to be. Customers enjoy coffee and doughnuts as they strain their necks to watch the video-consulting sessions. "This is something, huh?" Margaca asks in her mixed Boston-Italian accent. "Seeing it on the computer puts people's minds at ease when they decide to do something different, like changing their hair color."

Steele, an office manager who tours hair salons with her system on weekends, will give Margaca a modest commission on the $30-a-session fees. (Photos are extra.) By the end of the day, Margaca has made enough on the commissions to cover the cost of the food and the flyers she sent around as advertisements. Plus, she figures, she pulled in at least 10 new customers. Oh, and there's one more benefit. "I've always wanted to see what I'd look like in short hair," she says, sitting down next to the computer. Margaca's daughter, Diana, laughs at the blond hairstyles her dark-haired, dark-eyed mother chooses. "I want a new face," Margaca says. "I'm sure there are some things I can fix with that pen." -- Sarah Schafer




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