Once upon a time, fairytale characters asked talking mirrors to determine how great they looked in relation to their peers. But that's no longer the stuff of fiction. Now you can actually do something similar with your own smartphone.
RYNKL is a mobile app that aims to make users aware of their facial wrinklescapes beyond mere vanity. In the long-run, the creators want to help you extend your lifespan.
For the moment, snap a selfie and the app will map the saggy areas around your mouth, eyes, and forehead. Using a mixture of deep learning and imaging techniques, RYNKL can work out each user's "wrinkle index" by looking at the depth of sag and the breadth and number of creases. Users can also compare how their faces fare in relation to people in the same peer group.
If this is making you feel insecure already, chill. Believe it or not, Alex Zhavoronkov, one of RYNKL's creators and co-founder of Youth Laboratories—a company applying machine learning techniques to the beauty industry—has an argument prepared for why he's making you confront your decrepitude.
"Right now, if people were to realise that aging is a problem, but there is something they can do about it, they might be able to gain significant longevity," Zhavoronkov told me, adding that the trick was to believe you had a long lifespan.
"The first step in the quest for healthy longevity is understanding that aging is bad"
According to him, people can only take an active approach to preserving their looks when they are aware of the rate at which their face is deteriorating. Zhavoronkov said that while one's knowledge of facial decline would have been "psychologically damaging" 25 to 30 years ago when technology was less advanced, now there are enough supplements and deeper insights from the healthcare industry to allow people to make choices that could slow the aging process.
Zhavoronkov is also the founder of Insilico Medicine, a US-based big data analytics company that focuses on drug discovery and aging research. In the future, he wants to combine the RYNKL app's facial-imaging potential with gene expression data in order to provide people with a more comprehensive oversight into their own individual aging rates and health.
"We want to look at pictures and see how age-related features on the face correlate with those in the blood and be able to predict people's health status that way," said Zhavoronkov. "The first step in the quest for healthy longevity is understanding that aging is bad. It leads to a very large number of diseases and is a pathological process in itself."
Researchers from Youth Laboratories will be presenting their recent findings and techniques for applying machine learning to the beauty industry at the INNOCOS World Beauty Summit in Vienna this month. Aside from their RYNKL app, the researchers have organized beauty contests where humans are judged by robot judges, and according to Zhavoronkov, his team of programmers are honing algorithms that will allow robots to further evaluate human looks.
One day, beauty might well be in the eye of the AI.