Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

How Old Am I: Can Microsoft's How-old.net guess the age of Northern Ireland's politicians?

By Gary Fennelly

Microsoft has launched a new website, how-old.net, that can flatter or offend anyone with a few free minutes.

Microsoft launched the site at the Build developer conference in San Francisco. It uses facial recognition technology to identify the faces, and then determines the sex of the subject based on algorithms.

How accurate is it? It depends on the photograph - different pictures elicit different results.

But how does the tool fare when it analyses leaders of Northern Ireland political parties? We submitted a few images - just for fun. The results can be viewed in the gallery above.  For the most part it seemed to come close when guessing the ages of our test subjects - and it always got the sex correct.

However the most flattering results were for First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness - with the website shaving off ten and 15 years respectively. 

 Microsoft said that the app is still in development, and that it is continuing to learn as it is being used. Each result carries the message: "Sorry if we didn't quite get the age and gender right we are still improving this feature."

Writing in a blogpost on Thursday Microsoft engineers Corom Thompson and Santosh Balasubramanian said that interest in the tool had wildly exceeded their expectations, with more than 35,000 users trying it "within a few hours" of sharing it.

"We were shocked ... what a great example of people having fun thanks to the power of ML [Machine Learning]!," they wrote.

Further reading

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