Computer Wizardry Changes Age, Race and Gender

Have you ever wondered what you’d look like if you had a different racial background?

How about seeing yourself as a different gender?

And how will you look in your later years?

Well, now you can find out thanks to a project by a British university. Staff at the Perception Laboratory, based in the University of St Andrews, have published several tools on their site (www.faceofthefuture.org.uk) as part of a study into the social implications of facial recognition software.

The site includes a demonstration of how face detection works, a tool for morphing one image into another, and a face averager. This works by first stretching and resizing the images so that features are in the same place, then working out the average color of each pixel across the two images.

However, by far the most interesting tool is the face transformer. You simply upload a photo, draw a rectangle around the facial area, drag icons to the eyes and mouth, then choose from a range of transformations.

As an example, here’s a picture of me:

Were I of an East Asian background, I might look a little more like this:

One chromosome different and I could have looked like this:

(Disturbingly I’ve been told this resembles a great-aunt.)

Meanwhile the technology suggests I have this to look forward to in the future:

The technology is similar to that used for by an advertising agency last November to show an African American John McCain and a Caucasian Barack Obama to put across the message that voters should make decisions based on policy rather than race. (Ironically the images proved too successful with many posters, which were quickly torn down by souvenir collectors.)

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