Can a Computer Tell the Difference Between Goths and Hipsters?

A group of engineering students at the University of California, San Diego, are working on an algorithm that can look at a picture of a person and tell if they’re into Goth, a hipster, a biker or a surfer.  From Gizmag:

Using a group photo as reference, the algorithm harnesses a freely available open-source program to separate each person into six separate parts, splitting the face, the main part of the head, the top of the head, neck, torso, and arms into more manageable sections.The algorithm then considers issues like the normalized average face skin color detected, the type of clothing worn by the subjects, and the top three dominant values in Red, Green, Blue, Hue and Luminance color bands. This latter factor helps pinpoint colors in clothes and accessories, thought to be specific in some urban tribes. Finally, the algorithm analyzes the specific poses of the subjects.

The UCSD Jacobs team cite the potential of such an algorithm in improving recommendation services and gearing advertising to the correct group. The researchers further posit that an individual’s social identity can be defined by that particular individual’s association with various social groups. This seems like an obvious but sound insight, yet offers a chilling glimpse into the potential for government agencies to seek out political dissidents and the like, should the tech be used nefariously.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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