Earlier this week, as part of its annual Build Developer Conference, Microsoft unveiled a little experiment in machine learning: a Web site that can guess the age and gender of faces in a photograph. The creators of the demonstration had been hoping—“optimistically,” they wrote—to lure in fifty or so members of the public to help test the software. Instead, within hours, the site was struggling to remain online as it was inundated with thousands of visitors from all over the world (many of them, curiously enough, in Turkey). Facebook and Twitter were soon brimming with exclamations of amusement, mainly from middle-aged men identified as young women, and of offense, mainly from twentysomethings identified as postmenopausal. Not even the Mona Lisa was spared. She is thought to have been twenty-four years old when she sat for da Vinci, but oil paint can be terribly aging; Microsoft’s program put her at thirty.Age divination is a neat party trick, but facial analytics, as it turns out, may have a more sober application. In a paper published last month in the journal Cell Research, a group of Chinese scientists demonstrated that facial features can indicate how quickly a person is aging better than any other biological marker, and far better than chronological age.
What’s Written on Your Face?
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