Researchers using facial recognition technology to predict human lifespan

July 14, 2014 - 

A professor at the University of Illinois is currently developing a new method of facial recognition technology to help predict a person’s lifespan, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Jay Olshansky, PhD, first came up with the idea for the research project while talking to an insurance company employee who complained that he only had a short period of time to assess people’s survival prospects.

Olshansky told the Post that “some people tend to senesce, or grow older, more rapidly than others, and some more slowly,” while “the children of people who senesce more slowly tend to live longer than other people.”

Though the new method could be used by insurance companies to set premiums, Olshansky said it could also potentially convince people to start making healthier lifestyle decisions.

Olshansky has been collaborating with Dr. Karl Ricanek, a facial recognition expert at the University of North Carolina who has worked on projects with the NSA, FBI and CIA. They created a program that allows participants to submit a photograph of their face for analysis to extrapolate comprehensive data on his or her aging process.

Their Face My Age website compares the participant’s submitted photo with the facial characteristics of other individuals who are the same age, to ultimately determine whether the participant looks older or younger than these counterparts.

In addition to the information provided by the website, the researchers are also using data collected from other personal questions to predict the lifespan of the participant.

And although it is uncertain how accurate the technology is at this point, the website states that its “ability to more precisely detect (perceived) face age will improve as more people upload their photographs.”

The researchers also told the Post that they won’t be able to fully determine the accuracy of the website until enough of the project’s participants are deceased.

Watch the Washington Post feature about this project.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.