A new website created by Microsoft Inc. can tell how old somebody is just by looking at a photo of him or her. It uses a recently released Face detection APIs. The website – how-old.net – is really easy to use. Just upload the photo and you get your estimate in a fraction of a second.
The creators, who expected about 50 people to become interested in testing the project, were amazed at the response. As of yesterday, more than 35,000 have joined the test. The number is likely to go into the many hundreds of thousands.
How was my test?
I am 59 and placed my photo. The result was better than I had hoped for – the App thinks I am just 50. I am not going to place any more pics of me, in case the next one is less flattering.
Being told I am fifty, when I am fifty-nine was nice. I apologize for all the Microsoft jokes I have said during my life. (Image: how-old.net)
I tried half a dozen photographs of colleagues and friends and found the estimates to be fairly accurate, give or take ten years – most of them slightly flattering.
Some people had mixed experiences
Wayne Williams, writing in ITProPortal, said he tested several photos of himself and others on the site, and found that the estimated ages “vary wildly, and I mean wildly.” One photo of him produced an estimate of 35 years, while another guessed 75 (he is 48). Both images were taken at the same time, from slightly different angles.
Mr. Williams wrote:
“My advice is if you try it, and you get a flattering result, stop there. The next result will likely not be as kind.”
The website, Microsoft reminds people, is only at an early beta stage. Its features will probably improve in time.
The software even has a go with portrait paintings. It guessed this one of William Shakespeare to be aged 33.
Does Microsoft store your photo?
Microsoft insists it does not store people’s photos.
Santosh Balasubramanian and Corom Thompson, engineers in information management and machine learning at Microsoft, wrote in blog.how-old.net:
“We’ve had some questions so we updated this post to be more clear. No we don’t store photos, we don’t share them and we only use them to guess your age and gender.”
“The photos are discarded from memory once we guess. While we use the terms of service very common in our industry, and similar to most other online services, we have chosen not to store or use the photos in any way other than to temporarily process them to guess your age.”
“This is a fun story of how we were expecting perhaps 50 users for a test but – in the end – got over 35,000 users and saw the whole thing unfold in real time.”
However, as Adario Strange, writing in Mashable, points out:
“Its terms of service also includes the right for Microsoft to ‘publish your name in connection with your Submission; and to sublicense such rights to any supplier of the Website Services.'”
“The messages appear to directly conflict with each other: One promises that Microsoft won’t keep your photos, while the other states quite clearly that you are giving Microsoft permission to use them.”
Video – How old App