Have you ever wondered what you would look like if you could be as beautiful as a super model? It is only human nature, at least for those of use who were born without the perfect genetics, to try and figure it out.
Well researchers at the Tel Aviv University may just give you the chance to find out, without the amazingly high bills and associated risks of getting plastic surgery. They have built a computer designed to enhance the human face, a kind of instant beautifier for your photos. How does it do this, why with that most sexy of fields, math.
Beauty, contrary to what most people think, is not simply in the eye of the beholder,” says lead researcher Prof. Daniel Cohen-Or of the Blavatnik School of Computer Sciences at Tel Aviv University. With the aid of computers, attractiveness can be objectified and boiled down to a function of mathematical distances or ratios, he says. This function is the basis for his beauty machine.
Of course, these type of things always come with a debate.
Beauty is, after all, a quality that has captivated artists since time immemorial, and its definition has eluded even the world’s greatest philosophers. Prof. Cohen-Or sees things more scientifically.
“Beauty can be quantified by mathematical measurements and ratios. It can be defined as average distances between features, which a majority of people agree are the most beautiful,” says Prof. Cohen-Or. “I don’t claim to know much about beauty. For us, every picture in this research project is just a collection of numbers.”
I bet that you are wondering how they made up that algorythm after all turning personal preference into hard data is no easy task. Well, I will tell you how it was done:
In a study, recently published in the journal Siggraph, for computer graphics, Prof. Cohen-Or and his graduate student Tommer Leyvand together with two colleagues surveyed 68 Israeli and German men and women, aged 25 to 40, asking them to rank the beauty of 93 different men’s and women’s faces on a scale of 1 to 7. These scores were then entered into a database and correlated to 250 different measurements and facial features, such as ratios of the nose, chin and distance from ears to eyes. From this, the scientists created an algorithm that applies desirable elements of attractiveness to a fresh image.
While this technology is not on the market yet you could end up seeing it in a lot of different places like:
- The offices of plastic suregons who want to develop more natural guides for working on their patients.
- In the offices of magazines, where cover models are often used.
- In your next digital camera. Imagine looking like a model in all of your family photos.
I know what you are thinking, “Is this really a breakthrough? I bet I could do the same thing at home with photoshop.”
While you can enhance your images with photoshop there is a difference between the two methods. Unlike heavily processed Photoshop images that can make magazine cover models and celebrities unrecognizable, Tel Aviv University’s “beautification engine” is much more subtle. Observers say that the final image it produces retains an unmistakable similarity to the original picture, unless, as it turns out, you happen to be a celebrity.
“We’ve run the faces of people like Brigitte Bardot and Woody Allen through the machine and most people are very unhappy with the results,” Prof. Cohen-Or admits. “But in unfamiliar faces, most would agree the output is better.” Of course, if you are a celebrity, you could just pay for a team of professionals to air brush you, then you won’t need the software.