The Science Of Beauty: New Computer Software Calculates The "Ideal Face"

11/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The New York Times today has a story on a new computer program designed to improve the attractiveness of any given face.

According to the Times:

Scientists...applied an algorithm involving 234 measurements between facial features, including the distances between lips and chin, the forehead and the eyes, or between the eyes.

Essentially, they trained a computer to determine, for each individual face, the most attractive set of distances and then choose the ideal closest to the original face. Unlike other research with formulas for facial attractiveness, this program does not produce one ideal for a feature, say a certain eye width or chin length.

While this certainly raises some uncomfortable questions about "conventional" beauty, the software developer, Tommer Lyvand, says "the goal was not to argue that the altered faces are more beautiful than the originals," but to "tackle the challenge of altering a face according to agreed-upon standards of attractiveness," while still leaving the face completely recognizable.

It's also worth mentioning that the program was created using information based on photographs of white faces, and that "researchers have not yet created a program that would be designed with what they call a beauty estimator for nonwhite racial and ethnic groups."

The program itself has some interesting results:

When Mr. Leyvand put a photograph of Brigitte Bardot through his program, her full and puckered lips were deflated, and the world-famous beauty seemed less striking -- less like herself.

(By contrast, the before and after shots of the actor James Franco were almost indistinguishable, suggesting his classically handsome face is already pretty perfect.)


Click here to view a before and after slideshow - including Michael Cera, Woody Allen, and James Franco.

What do you think? Who looked better? Who looked worse? What effect do you think this will have, if any, on today's standards of beauty and the beauty industry as a whole?

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