Ravishing, darlings (Image: Horst Friedrichs/ Anzenberger/ eyevine)
Now even computers are going to be critical of how we look: algorithms are. New software judges outfits from a photograph and offers tips to make them look even more chic.
“Not everyone has access to an expert,” says, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto, Canada, who developed the software with colleagues in Spain. “You can imagine something like this being used [to style photos for] dating sites and Facebook profiles.”
Fashion is as tough foras it is for us, if not more so, largely because it is so subjective. What’s popular now may become passé in a few months, and what works well in a particular culture or setting could be wildly inappropriate in another: think about clothes for date night and clothes for the office. And before a computer works any of this out,
To teach the software about fashion, Urtasun’s team showed it thousands of pictures from Chictopia, a popular style website. The more positive votes left by other users, the more “fashionable” the software perceived the look to be.
It also noted other information about the photo, such as the user’s geographic location, the date they had posted it, the background of the picture, and written descriptions of the clothing.
The resulting software uses this information to categorise outfits and make suggestions based on what was successful for others in similar situations – for example, to add black boots or try something in pastel. The team plans to hone the results further by showing it a more diverse array of photos from other sources.
Urtasun presented the work at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier this month. Her team plans to improve the software so that it can automate the work of a human stylist.
Alexandra Greenawalt, a personal stylist in New York City, is understandably sceptical about computers muscling in on her patch. Looking good is about more than the latest trends, she says.
When dressing clients, she considers a wide range of factors, including their age, occupation and body shape. An effective algorithm would need to take all that into account, too.
Still, she is curious to watch the technology develop. “What will be interesting to see is if it can predict fashion before it happens or just based on likes in the past,” she says. “I would imagine the teens and 20-year-olds who are very much wanting to be in fashion would find it valuable.”
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