Looking for a way to waste a few minutes? Microsoft has put online an experiment in facial recognition that aims to tell you the age of anyone in any picture you upload. The results are just as unreliable as you'd expect — and since this is just a side project of some engineers at Microsoft's Machine Learning group, it wouldn't be fair to hope for much more.
Corom Thompson and Santosh Balasubramanian set up the How-Old.net page as a lark to test out a bit of facial recognition software recently released by Microsoft. "We sent email to a group of several hundred people asking them to try the page for a few minutes and give us feedback – optimistically hoping that at least 50 people would give it a shot," they wrote in a blog post. "Within a few hours, over 35,000 users had hit the page from all over the world."
It wasn't meant to be a viral hit, but that's what it turned out to be, and now thousands upon thousands more have uploaded pictures of themselves, family members, movie stars and anyone else they can think of.
The system isn't very accurate, but it tends to get the decade right. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, for instance, is 47, not 42. Some guesses are off by more. A picture of Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings" returned 89 years, though according to lore he was nearly 500 when Bilbo found him in "The Hobbit." Give it a shot over here with a stock photo or your own.