University of Washington Develops Age-Progression Program

age-progression

A new age-progression program has been developed at the University of Washington (UW). The software will enable people to upload a photo of themselves, or someone else, and in approximately one minute they will be shown what the person in the picture will look like in the future. The Computer Science and Engineering department will be making the free software public in a couple of months.

When an image of a youthful Bill Clinton was tested, the result was quite accurate, even when compared to an actual photo of the former president. A recent picture of Miley Cyrus was progressed to the pop princess at the age of 60. Perhaps most poignant were the tests done on famous Seattleites, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, to see what the deceased rockers would look like today. Had they lived, Cobain would be 47 and Hendrix 71 years old.

Ironically, Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, assistant professor and head researcher for the project, has not taken advantage of the fortune-telling like software. At the age of 33, she said that she just is not interested in seeing herself any older. According to UW psychology professor, Tony Greenwald, her reaction is not unusual. His research, not related to the age-progression work, revolves around how viewers react to elderly faces in comparison to youthful ones. In our youth-obsessed culture, the results are not surprising. Subjects tend to react more negatively to older faces. In light of that fact, quite a big portion of the population will have no desire to see themselves aged.

Besides perhaps giving people the shock of their lives, the software promises to be useful for a more noble purpose. The age-progression program developed at UW could make finding missing children, who have now grown up, an easier task. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) employs four artists who specialize in forensic-imaging. Using Photoshop and pictures of family members, they do their best to depict what a five-year-old may now look like at age 21. It is not an exact science, however with over 2,000 long-term cases of missing children, the age-progression software has the potential to take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation and NCMEC is eager to try the new program.

Over a 24 month period, 40,000 images of various people were collected. They divided these people by gender and age. By applying mathematics to each face, they were able to forecast how a face would change over the years. Each face was represented by 4,000 pixels. One small part of a face, like the corner of the mouth, is represented by a row of numbers.

Over time, faces make some predictable changes. Noses get bigger, eyes and lips narrow, wrinkles appear, skin will sag and bags show up under the eyes. Using terms like “illumination subspace” the science and math get a bit challenging for the layman. Suffice it to say, those who worked on the program are proud of how well it works.

One way they tested the program was to show people two images, one generated by the program, the other an actual image of the same person. The subjects could not tell the images apart. Not only that, but the software works when the primary image is that of a baby.

This ground-breaking new age-progression program will be available to the public on the UW website in approximately two months. Even for those not interested in uploading an image of themselves, consider using a picture of Joan Rivers, just to see what all of that plastic surgery has really done for her.

by Stacy Lamy

Sources:

SeattleTimes

Harvard

missingkids

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