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Robots judging beauty pageants? Hello 2016!

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 4:02 IST

Robots are taking over one step at a time. Their next target? Beauty pageants.

Robots are known for many things. What they aren't known for though, is their appreciation of aesthetics. However, they are known for being precise, consistent and objective; all traits integral to judging pretty much anything. And besides, there isn't much that a really good algorithm can't do that a human can. So why not get them to judge beauty?

Also read - Transformers, eat your heart out: giant fighting robots are now real

That's what Beauty.ai is counting on.

Beauty.ai and 'The First Beauty Contest Judged by Artificial Intelligence'

If there's one thing Steve Harvey showed the world, it's that just announcing the winner of a beauty pageant is hard enough.

So if just announcing the results is that hard, deciding the winner must be a task up there with being Donald Trump's PR manager or a Congress spokesperson. Because if there's one thing we can all agree on when it comes to beauty, it's that it's completely subjective.

No result ever pleases everyone. And sometimes things can even get ugly for pageants. Luckily the wizards we call scientists at Beauty.ai have come up with a solution. And like seemingly every solution these days, its robots.

The pageant, called Beauty.ai, is organised by the Youth Laboratories collective, a team of biogerontologists (scientists who study ageing) and data scientists. They've teamed up with science and tech companies including Microsoft to test the idea.

The premise is simple, contestants send in selfies through the Beauty.ai app. These are processed by Beauty.ai's three-member robot jury. The robots evaluate the contestants' selfies, judging features like skin colour, tone, symmetry, signs of ageing and beauty and health criteria that we normally use to judge attractiveness.

The algorithm then goes a step further. It also compares the contestants within their race, age group and sex to more objectively determine a person's 'beauty'. The winner gets to bask in the knowledge that they are objectively the most beautiful person on the planet.

Unfortunately, beards aren't allowed, so we won't truly know who the most beautiful person is because beards are just epic. #Fact.

The competition also has another category, for data scientists with similar algorithms to the ones Beauty.ai is using. Scientists will be able to submit their own algorithms based on criteria of their choosing. The winners will get their papers published and possibly even work with leading anti-ageing, skin medicine companies that have partnered with Beauty.ai.

Not just an exercise in vanity

It would be easy to write the 'pageant' off as an unfortunate symptom of the hyper-superficial world we live in. But, given the minds behind it, one would be wise to reconsider that. Beauty.ai's goal is much grander. And it's entirely tied up in the agenda of the anti-ageing industry.

They believe that in the future, robots will gain vital medical information about people based solely on their photographs. In such a scenario, the ability of a machine to gauge beauty is a natural first step because healthier people tend to be more attractive. This is the driving force behind developing, testing and improving tech that can effectively evaluate beauty.

You know the world just got more amazing when robots are judging beauty contests

Through efforts like Beauty.ai, the good folk at Youth Laboratories hope to develop more apps that not only help us understand our faces but allow us to track changes based on products we use. Or, more specifically, anti-ageing products they peddle or intend to.

In fact, one of the 'judges', RYNKLE, will soon be released as a stand alone app that allows users to take selfies periodically to "analyse the changes in 'wrinkleness' of their face in the context of their lifestyle and behaviour".

Sure Beauty.ai is a self-serving exercise for the Youth Laboratories collective and their partners. But that in no way takes away from the novelty or ingenuity behind it. I'll be giving it a miss because by all accounts, subjective and objective, I look like a cross between a bear and a shrub. But, if you want to test your looks against the world's most objective and impartial judge, Beauty.ai is your chance.

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First published: 6 January 2016, 1:55 IST
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.