Age is more than a number

Published 24 January 2008

Australian researchers develop a software tool which determines a person’s age; tool will be useful for national security, law enforcement — and for restricting children’s access to inappropriate Web sites

An improved technique for estimating a person’s age that will have implications for national security, law enforcement, and restricting children’s access to inappropriate web sites, has been developed by Deakin University researchers in Australia. The head of Deakin’s School of Engineering and Information Technology, Professor Kate Smith-Miles, and Ph.D. student Xin Geng, are working on the automatic age estimation project known as AGES (AGing pattErn Subspace). “While recognition of most facial variations, such as identity, expression and gender, has been extensively studied, automatic age estimation has rarely been explored,” Smith-Miles said.

Logging on to inappropriate websites by under-age computer users would be more difficult with the AGES technique able to determine whether the face of the person at the keyboard conforms to the age they say they are, Smith-Miles said. “That’s just one practical and obvious way in which the work we’re doing could be used,” she said. It could also be used to estimate a user’s age and automatically choose the vocabulary, interface, and services suitable to the user, or by law enforcement officials to determine the age of a suspect more accurately and efficiently. Using mathematical algorithms, the AGES technique has proven to be more accurate in estimating age based on photographs of people’s faces than other existing methods. “In extensive experiments of over 2,000 faces, our method outperformed the existing approaches, and even outperformed human perception of age estimates when the humans were given only the same tightly cropped face images to view as those fed into our algorithm,” she said.