Who ya gonna call? Microsoft’s age-guessing photo site finds ghostly face in picture

how old net microsoft face recognition news ghost
Microsoft’s How-Old.net website wants you to upload a picture so it can guess your gender and your age. It has taken social media by storm, even getting its own #howoldnet hashtag on Twitter. Some find the idea that Microsoft may be covertly gathering pictures of our faces (don’t worry, it’s not really doing that), a bit creepy, but the clever tech is discovering even creepier things in the photos themselves.

Twitter user @puchimaro uploaded a picture to the site and it returned not one, but two results. In the foreground is the subject of the photo, a female aged 31, while off to the right in the background … is a ghostly disembodied face of a 20-year-old!

Yes, Microsoft has built its own ghost-hunting machine, and it apparently works quite well. Let’s just hope no one from the EPA turns up and turns off the protection grid. Sadly, ghostbusting isn’t really the purpose of the site. It’s actually demonstrating Microsoft’s new face detection API, building on the fun features we’ve seen on several smartphones recently.

Is it accurate? Sometimes, but most of the time, no. A picture of President Obama and his family produced some off-kilter results, with his under-20 daughters both looking either 33 or 27 according to Microsoft’s space-age tech. We wondered, if it’s not born to guess our ages, perhaps it is designed to find ghosts? So we fed it with some famous ghost pictures to see how it did.

Turns out it’s not very good at that either, although it did see the twist coming in the Sixth Sense, and even correctly guessed Bruce Willis’ age. It over-estimated Haley Joel Osment’s tender years, though.

You can have fun with How-Old.net right here, checking for ghosts or otherwise, but prepare to be saddened by how old it thinks most people are — it was between five and ten years out for me each time, and on the least favorable side.


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