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Photo-based age recognition Microsoft application creates online craze in China

Updated: 07 May 2015
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A screenshot from how-old.net. This photo-based age recognition application using face detection technology has caused a global stir. (Photo/Chiannews.com)
 
A photo-based age recognition application using face detection technology has caused a global stir, with Chinese also sharing their results on WeChat, a popular social networking app.
 
Users upload their photos to how-old.net, a tool developed by Microsoft, which will guess at their age and gender.
 
Within the first few hours of launching, the site had already processed more than 210,000 photos sent from across the world.
 
On April 30, the company demonstrated the new tool to developers at its annual Build conference, in order to showcase what interesting apps could be developed using its cloud computing service.
 
Even Microsoft didn't expect the app to be such a hit among users, changing its original plans to switch off the service after the meeting and instead continuing to let the site run.
 
However, it seems the new tool does not always live up to its promise, often generating results that are far from correct. Regardless, some users remain obsessed with it, and they are happy to show off results indicating they look younger than their real age.
 
In one case, a 30-year-old user uploaded a picture that had been processed with a photo app, and was told they looked 11 years old.
 
A photo of veteran star Liu Xiaoqing, 58, indicated she is just 14, leading one user to comment: "Is such flattery really good?"
For Taiwanese supermodel and actress Lin Chi-ling, 41, a photo without makeup indicated she is 33 and with makeup, just 26.
 
However, the results are not always so flattering; sometimes they can even leave people frustrated. A user in her twenties tested two photos of her wearing sunglasses and making faces. In one photo, she stands in front of a Buddha statue, with the app showing she is 46 and the Buddha statue, 45. In the other, the app simply fails to recognize her not-so-distorted face, telling her it "couldn't detect any faces."
 
The new app is based on Microsoft's Azure, an open, flexible, enterprise-grade cloud computing platform. Third-party developers are allowed to make use of the interface and technology behind how-old.net to develop tools capable of recognizing faces and guessing a person's gender and age.
 
Despite its success, analysts said the app has taken advantage of user curiosity and the mentality of showing off and expect its popularity to be short-lived. Nevertheless, fine-tuning of the facial recognition technology behind the product is worth developing, it was added.
 
Microsoft also vows to improve this feature, and promises the app would not leak personal user information.
 
SOURCE: ecns.cn
 
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