Cutting Edge Image-recognition Software Makes Fun of You

Image-recognition software calculates your age, fixes hair loss. The horror!

Picasa 2.7

Image analysis was one of the hot trends at this years CEATEC show in Japan. In addition to Pioneer's road-analyzing navigation system, both NEC and Toshiba showed how far the technology has come.

NEC's system, called FieldAnalyst, is like camera face-recognition software on steroids. Beyond just spotting your mug, it does a critical once-over to see if you are a man or a woman and to guess your age. What's it good for? Think extremely targeted advertising—a la Minority Report—in public places like shopping malls.

That's something I'm not looking forward to—not because of privacy, but because of vanity. According to Field Analyst, I'm about 40 years old. Forty?! I'm a fit and young-at-heart 36. At least I thought so. Now according to NEC, the system on display at CEATEC only contained profiles for Japanese people—who apparently age more gracefully than we haggard gaijin.

Maybe FieldAnalyst inflated my age when it spotted my semi-glossy dome. In any case, Toshiba has a fix for that—via a digital extreme makeover. The real purpose of the exhibit was to show off the power of their SPURS engine—which takes the mighty, multi-core Cell processor that Sony so effectively wastes in the PlayStation 3 and employs it in PCs. Toshiba hasn't set a timetable for selling systems with SPURS. But it showed off some amazingly souped-up Qosmio laptops fitted with the coprocessor. Two of them were running powerful Toshiba software that can create computer models in real-time. So you can apply special effects, like this awesome coiffeur and outfit I got, to live video. —Sean Captain