How to get from Doris to Widdecombe Fairest Of All without a scalpel

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 06 July 2006

Anne Widdecomb (MP) [left]was jocularly known as "Doris" - an allusion to the film actor Boris Karloff, and her close resemblance to him[see picture below, right] especially in his Frankenstein role. So how do we get to the cute gurly on the left, from there?

The short answer is: "A bottle of bleach, and My Perfect Picture." That's software, from Anthropics, currently under development.We started off with a photograph of the politician (taken from her official web site) after the bleach was applied. It needed no more than cropping to size to be fit for our purposes, which are simple: what's the difference between Doris, and a pretty woman?

Astonishingly, the answer is: "Not much!"

The hair change, which the politician arranged herself as part of her political makeover a few years ago, is the single most important change.

"We know quite a lot about faces," said Andrew Berend, CEO of Anthropics. "We know what people think means 'beauty' in women; there is a stereotype, which is, basically, young and symmetrical, with 'ideal' ratios of jaw size, eye size, lips and nose to the face shape.

To change the face to be close to that ideal, you use the "resculpt" slider. It turns out that if you push it left or right, it makes little difference: the main change is that the "ideal" Widdecombe has a slightly shorter (cuter?) chin.

And (after the blonde bit) the most important difference between Doris and Widdecombe Fair, is age. My Perfect Picture allows us to remove the prime signs of age with a dozen clicks ("We'll have that down to two or three" said Berend) and that gives us
the ideal shown top left.

There will, no doubt, be those who think that the resculpting function must be broken. Not at all; unattractive politicians are as rare as poor ones, and unattractive female politicans tend to be "hard Party workers" rather than representatives. Humans tend to vote for people they admire; and beauty is one of the things we admire most.

Have a look at the full set of pix -courtesy Flickr - and see what a difference it can make to a really "conventionally ugly" face.

So, what's the mobile connection? That's simple: Andrew popped around today to show me "work in progress" and talk about his plans

  • a male face version of the software. Hard, because some people think Brad Pitt is the ideal man, but Sean Connery still makes women swoon, and there's really nothing in common between the two faces
  • well, if you had software like this, what would you do with it and a mobile phone market?
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