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AI in the mirror

Do you want artificial intelligence to make an assessment of your face? That’s easy, not sure you may like the assessment though…. Image credit: screenshot of my face on Qoves website

When I was a kid it used to be:

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?

Time has gone by and now it seems that you can ask (a similar question) Artificial Intelligence to get an assessment on your “beauty”. Go on the Qoves website and try by yourself.

I was pointed to their website by a nice article on Technology Review, and the fact that such a reputable magazine looks into apparently frivolous issues like beauty ranking is interesting.

Qoves, a US start up, leverages image recognition and artificial intelligence to look into your face characteristics and compare them to what -generally- people would find attractive, i.e. beautiful. For each facial characteristic that AI considers as a potential “flaw” (the system is programmed to list 10 of them) they return a ranking in terms of probability, like 0.69 (out of 1) of periocular discoloration ( read dark bags under your eyes) that makes you a tad less beautiful.

It does not stop there, of course: it suggests some fixing, using cosmetics and even surgery… That is where Qovas makes money.

The interesting part, to me, is the technology. Artificial intelligence is used to assess what is a human perception, the perception of beauty. The software is trained (I suppose) of million of face images that have associated a beauty ranking and it extracts hints that would result in the perception of beauty.

Clearly beauty is subjective and I may find captivating a face that others would not even consider for a moment. Still, in very general terms there is some shared (strongly culturally biased) agreement on beauty and AI is looking at this shared perception to single out your facial characteristics that, is tweaked, could improve your “beauty”.

The perception of beauty, let me reiterate it, is highly subjective. More than that. Something you may not like at first sight, once you get use to it may turn out to have its own beauty. The risk with this kind of AI applications is to have people taking them too seriously, at face value. As long as you have fun with them, and for fun try some cosmetics to change your look I would say it is ok. However one should not turn AI into an oracle telling the truth.

Yet this is what may happen with many people, and that is bad.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.

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