Software to make you unforgettable

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London - You might think expensive make-up or a better hair cut will make you more memorable in photos – but all you really need is a clever algorithm.

Software developed by scientists in the US claims to change images of your face to make it more memorable, without dramatically changing your appearance.

The system could ultimately be used as an app, allowing selfies to be changed before they are posted on sites like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

“We wanted to modify the extent to which people will actually remember a face,” said lead author Aditya Khosla, from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

“This is a very subtle quality, because we don’t want to take your face and replace it with the most memorable one in our database, we want your face to still look like you.”

Researchers claim memorable faces tend to be more interesting. The exact features differ from face to face, but it helps when it looks kind, trustworthy, slightly distinct and already familiar.

The algorithm finds a distinctive feature in a person’s face, such as sharp cheekbones or arched eyebrows, and makes it slightly more prominent.

The researchers suggest the software could be used for job applications, to create a digital version of an applicant’s face that will more readily stick in the minds of potential employers.

It could also be used to make faces appear less memorable.

For instance, the faces of actors in the background of a television programme could be altered to keep attention on the main actors.

To develop the memorability algorithm, the team first fed the software a database of more than 2 000 images. Each of these images had been awarded a “memorability score”, based on the ability of human volunteers to remember the pictures.

The software was able to analyse the information to detect subtle trends in the features of these faces that made them more or less memorable to people.

Changing the width of a nose may make a face look much more distinctive, for example, but it could also completely alter how attractive the person is, and so would fail to meet the algorithm’s objectives.

It then keeps repeating this process until it finds a version that best meets its objectives.

“It’s really like applying an elastic mesh on to the photograph that slightly modifies the face,” said MIT researcher Aude Oliva. “The face still looks like you, but maybe with a bit of lifting.”

To test their algorithm, the team selected photos of 500 people and modified them to produce both a memorable and forgettable version of each.

When they tested these images on a group of volunteers, they found that the algorithm succeeded in making the faces more or less memorable in around 75 percent of cases.

The first time we see a face, we tend to “tag” it with attributes based on appearance, such as intelligence, kindness, or coldness.

“If we tag a person with familiarity, because we think this is a face we have seen before, we have a tendency to like it more, and for instance to think the person is more trustworthy,” Oliva said.

The team is now investigating how to add other attributes to their model, so that it could modify faces to be both more memorable and to appear more intelligent or trustworthy. – Daily Mail


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