Now an algorithm has been developed that morphs photographs of human faces into subtly more attractive versions of themselves. By making tiny adjustments to the distances between hundreds of different facial features, the "digital beautification" algorithm is designed to make a face more attractive in just a few minutes without significantly altering the person's appearance.
The system, created by Tommer Leyvand of Tel Aviv University in Israel, could not only give magazine editors and advertisers a new photographic tool, it could also help amateur photographers touch up their digital images at home.
In 2005 a team led by Leyvand's colleague Yael Eisenthal asked people to rate the attractiveness of faces in almost 200 photographs. Software then analysed the images, measuring distances between facial features and ratios such as that between facial width at eye and mouth level, and the thickness of the eyebrows. It compared these with the attractiveness ratings given by the volunteers to create a set of rules, known as the "beauty function", for assessing whether a face is attractive.
Leyvand has now written a second piece of software that applies this algorithm to a facial image to make adjustments to features so that they more closely obey the rules. It then analyses the results to determine which changes have been successful, and discard any that don't work. Users can also adjust the severity of the changes.