Prepare to be offended by Microsoft's age-guessing app

Face recognition app proves scarily accurate so don't expect to be flattered

Have you ever played that well-known game of “guess my age”? No! Well pretend that you have, because Microsoft has unveiled a new website that will try to work out your age from a picture.

All you have to do is upload a photo of yourself (or indeed anyone else) and How-Old.netwill not only guess your age but also figure out if you are male or female.

It's all part of the firm showing off its cloud service Azure and one of its APIs at the firm's Microsoft BUILD conference. The website uses Azure's Face APIs to carry out the recognition. It can also group faces to decide if there are multiple images of the same person in the shot.

The upcoming Windows 10 will use facial recognition as an alternative to passwords, so no doubt similar technology is at work here.

At a demonstration at the conference, Microsoft's Joseph Siroshused the website to determine the age of Mona Lisa; it came back with the answer of 23, which is fairly accurate given what art historians know about that picture.

According to a blog post by a couple of researcher behind How Old, they were only expecting around 50 users to access the service but within a few hours 35,000 users hit the website (and after reading this article, millions more).

Corom Thompson and Santosh Balasubramanian, Engineers in Information Management and Machine Learning at Microsoft expected people to upload stock photos.

“What we found out was that over half the pictures analysed were of people who had uploaded their own images,” the researchers said.

As you can see from the photo above, this writer has tried it out and the results are pretty good (give or take ten years).