A wokfull of cockroaches – observing observers

The facial analysis system behind the recently featured ‘Laughing Mirror‘was developed by the Dutch firm VicarVision [* see note below] A description of their system, called ‘FaceReader ™ ‘ was published in Proceedings of Measuring Behavior, 2005 (Wageningen, 30 August – 2 September 2005) ‘The FaceReader: Online facial expression recognition‘ Since then the computer code has evolved considerably, and is now available in version 5.0. Their software distributor, Noldus, provide a video of the system in use:

“Here, you see participant six looking at a cook preparing dinner – in this case cockroaches.”

The paper explains the functions of faces ;

“Apart from being the means to identify other members of the species, the human face provides a number of signals essential for interpersonal communication in our social life. The face houses the speech production apparatus and is used to regulate the conversation by gazing or nodding, and to interpret what has been said by lip reading. It is our direct and naturally pre-eminent means of communicating and understanding somebody’s affective state and intentions on the basis of the shown facial expression.”

VicarVision also provide an on-line demo of their software that will analyse any (suitable) face photo – which can either be uploaded, or linked-to directly from a www url. Improbable tried this picture – and, after analysis,  the system informed that the subject was :

        gender : female     
       age : 55 – 65

with the attributes :

       beard : none     
       moustache : none
       glasses : yes

and displaying the expressions :

       rather sad
       somewhat disgusted

Try out your picture here: [see note 1 below]


[1] Unfortunately, shortly after our trial (late May 2013), the online software system appeared to stop working.

[2] * The ‘Vicar’ part of VicarVision is inspired by the word ‘vicarious‘ rather than ‘vicar‘.