I Think You’re Pretty—and So Does Google

05 Apr 2012
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Valerie Jacobs

In 2002, the film Minority Report featured a scene in which the main character (on the run from the law) is bombarded by personalized, holographic advertisements calling out his name—“John Anderton, you could use a Guinness right about now.” A mere decade ago this qualified as science fiction—the film was convincingly set in 2054—but today it is on the cusp of reality.

Despite privacy concerns and regulations, facial recognition technology is approaching an inevitable ubiquity. Cameras can identify individuals by their physical characteristics, analyze the biometric data and deliver a comprehensive estimate of the person’s ethnicity, age, gender and more. Startups like SceneTap are already utilizing this technology to help Chicago and Austin residents plan their nightlife by providing crowd statistics from bars around the city—percentage capacity, male/female ratio and even average age. The software scans the locales, interprets the faces in the crowds and pipes the demographic information to you before you even leave the house.

Aside from obvious security and marketing applications, this technology is likely to completely revolutionize the beauty industry. Providing consumers with the ability to instantly track, measure and, ultimately, alter their image will push beauty ideals to new heights. Currently, FacialMap Corporation is using advanced computer modeling to analyze a woman’s face and create a diagnostic that shows her maximum attractiveness potential. Traditionally, makeup advice has come subjectively from the woman at the counter or through trial and error—technology is now stepping in to fill that void with quantitative advice based on the relative position and pronouncement of your distinct facial features.

Services like these are already showing how facial recognition technology will shape the way in which we perceive identity, others and the role of community. More importantly, with services allowing us to virtually experiment with cosmetics, hair colors/styles and even skin tone, they may soon begin to change the way we perceive ourselves.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be presenting additional insights from my article in the March issue of GCI Magazine, “Adaptable Allure.” These posts will explore the ways in which facial recognition technology will affect the creation of subcultures, iconic perfection, heightened individuality and the anonymity revolution. I’ll introduce companies and products on the cutting-edge of this field and discuss how people will embrace, advance and even fight back against the future of beauty.