Morphos in the News

Remember that scene in Uglies with the morphos? When Tally and Shay play with a digital version of their face to see what they’ll look like as pretties?

Well, a group of Israeli computer scientists have developed something similar: a “beautification engine” that automatically renders photos of faces into (supposedly) prettier versions of themselves.

I’m particularly happy with the name “beautification engine,” which is kind of steampunk sounding. Here’s an example of its work:

Interestingly, the software doesn’t smooth wrinkles or blemishes. It changes only facial geometry, while trying to keep the face recognizable. (Being faithful to the original is not something they’d worry about in Tally’s city, of course.) And really, like a lot of these attempts to reduce beauty to numbers, it’s more bland-making than anything else.

Here’s the article about the software in the NY Times, and here’s a slide show of celebrity faces altered by it.

What’s intriguing is how many faces are less pretty after they’ve been run through the software. (Especially Marlon Brando.) This may be because we “know” the celebrities involved, and don’t want them changed.

Or maybe it’s because some of these celebs are already pretties, and “there is no beauty without some strangeness in its proportion.” But the software, which looks kind of bland-making to me, removes that strangeness and actually makes certain people less pretty.

It’s cool that this came out now, though, because one of the biggest sections in Bogus to Bubbly is about the science of beauty. I tried to distill a lot of the research that’s been done, and to explain it in psychological and evolutionary terms in ways relevant to the Uglies series. And frankly, I think my explanations are better, or at least more complete, than those in the Times.

You’ll be able to judge for yourself in less than two weeks, because Bogus comes out October 21! (And yes, some school book fairs are already selling the book.)

Thank you for spotting this article, Sophie and Hiroki!

And one last shout-out from the tour bus: Tonight Justine will be in Kansas City, MO to talk about How to Ditch Your Fairy, with me in tow!

Thursday, 9 October 2008, 7:00PM
Kansas City Library

4801 Main Street
Kansas City, MO

146 thoughts on “Morphos in the News

  1. In the picture you used, they made her eyes smaller…I find that interesting. A Pretty’s eyes are supposedly rather large, if I remember correctly.

    I don’t think machinery can simulate beauty like that. It just…doesn’t work…

  2. Good point about the eyes. I think this is more like averaging software than “beautification” software, really.

    And yes, it’s more bland-making than anything else.

  3. It’s kind of funny how Michael Cera’s facial features just get smaller as they changed him.

    But yeah…I find the differences pretty subtle. And, yes, bland-making.

    Be unique, kids! Your individuality is what makes you beautiful! *cheesy inspirational poster*

  4. i was soo close … but i guess second post is good enough 😀
    well i agree with the comment above that the pretties in the uglies sirese have large eyes, which was dififult for me to find attractive b/c big eyes frighten me and look unhealty and i wouldn’t want to be near them, but the face douse look more attracive in the “pretier” picture for me anyway b/c as i said big eyes scare me
    yea tallys city dosn’t worry about looking the same as the original b/c they want people to look almost the same so her ciity wouldn’t accept that technology experishaly cable she would sick ther speicals on them for even attemping you use that indead of her desines.
    i can’t waite for Bubbly to Bogas and Livathen >.< i’m posotive i spelled that wrong, sorry Scott

  5. wow. that’s crazy. technology just keeps changing. i agree, it sucks the individuality right out of the people. i wouldn’t want to have that done.

    and yay!!! Bogus to Bubbly!!! 😀

  6. I agree that most of them r LESS pretty than b4…. i mean really….. i dont know WHY they even make those sort of things cause they just make u feel bad about the way u look. seriously, celebritys should shouldnt care about how they look. they r rich anyway… they r just setting a bad example.

  7. I’m just kind of curious to see what I would look like. But I like kind of extreme things with looks sometimes so the whole black hair being to extreme for pretties just didn’t work for me.

  8. hhhhmmmm… her whole face is kind of… smaller and cuter looking than anything… thats what i think anyway. the lips are smaller too. wow. this software needs to be updated.

    my bookfair sold it early! (lucky for me!)

    -Lizzy-wa OUT! :mrgreen:

  9. my moms reading PRETTIES now and she was just telling me how “hilarious” the PRETTY speak is. hehe. i REALLY hope she doesnt try to sound cool and start using it or anything…

    -Lizzy-wa OUT! 😛

  10. hmmmmm…weird, strange, unoriginal, and boring. the faces just are like BLAH!!! so “bland-making” as Scott said. i mean come on, their faces look so perfectly symetrical that it just looks unreal, boring, and NOT NATURAL!!! and why do the faces get SMALLER??? that doesn’t make sense, but watever. i think that even though Tally’s city doesn’t go for individuality, that their pretties are DEFINITELY prettier than those celebs.


    GREEN DAY!!! <3
    A though processed in my head,
    And i need to tell u,
    Wat news that i forethought.
    Was it just a dream,
    That happened long ago?
    I think i just forgot.
    Well it hasn’t been the first time.
    ANd it sure does drive me mad.
    Coz when i say there’s a boy who fogs his world,
    And now he’s gettin lazy.
    There’s no motivation and frustration makes him crazy.
    He makes a plan to take a stand, but always ends up sitting.
    Someone help him up or he is gonna end up quitting.

  11. ok just posted but i have a question about a post that was posted long ago.

    When is that analogy of Uglies book coming out?? i know it’s in 2009, but i still wanna know. ANd also… Is it titled or haven’t there been any ideas that were a winner?? just wondering coz i keep posting ideas on that one post and i was wondering if it was worth it or if i was just wasting my time. COOL!!!

  12. oh wow…i just wasted a good two hours coloring my shoes…but now they are all high-lighter colorish… yeah….plus i kept myself under control this time, so the shoes are appropriate the wear to school tomorrow…unlike last time….lol….

  13. dear lord james franco is hott!!

    *clears throat*

    ahem. ah yes, this scientific information was rather… oh who am i kidding…..mmmm….james franco….

  14. I think the original photo is better, the woman seems to have more personality.
    You’re right, the program would be fun to muck around with, but I think the mirrored photos, especially the one of Michael Cera looked creepy. They lost all the unique things in their faces and sort of look vacant and zoned out….like Pretties!

  15. Yay! Scott-la you made my day better!
    And her right eye is smaller than her left eye, in both pictures.
    Great Article.

  16. WHOA Jay-wa, did u make measurements or something???
    *Checks pic*
    You’re right.

    Another thing to point out – her ‘after’ face isn’t symmetrical. In Uglies, they made the faces symmetrical.
    If ya don’t believe me, check the eyebrows in particular. Oh and eyes.

    I agree with it making her bland-making. She totally looks more less individual after.

    Ummm, more less … More is superfluous …

    Andrea-la, how often do you colour your shoes?! Sounds like you do it often!
    And what’s that about appropriate to wear??!!
    I colour my hands often but half the time it’s by accident. And it’s only eva pencil or pen, if I’ve been writing or drawing … So funny how I almost always manage to colour my hands when I pick a pen or pencil up.

  17. I agree with lotti-wa, that is creepy. And it does take away personality, a lot of personality.


  18. I had a hard time trying to figure out which one was supposed to be the after image, I found her oringial face to be prettier…It’s more in proportion with the rest of her face.

  19. i notice how the peoples faces got rounder kind of in the cute babyish way they make pretties eyes bigger interesting…

  20. This is the very first time I’ve seen a comment from Scott – Sensei himself! (Comment 2)
    Scott – you should get Uglies translated to Hebrew! So many of my friends ADORED Peeps and are dying for more, but can’t read English

  21. She does look prettier. Mean, yet true. i wonder what i would look like prettier…i dont think thats possible though. I just cant be perfected, Im just too gorgeous. Joking (or am I?).

  22. you can read Hebrew Irene-la!?! thats SO cool!

    oh wait. you didnt say you read Hebrew. you said your FRIENDS read Hebrew…

    oh well! its still cool!

    -Lizzy-wa OUT! 🙂

  23. I think its really cool that you can actually make your face like totally perfect. Although sometimes being to pretty is odd. I love natural beauty.
    P.S. Bogus to Bubbly is really good!!!
    <3 Nicole-la =)

  24. Hmmm… I agree with Bran-la (scary, I know!) that the second picture does seem to look better than the first. But if they used that software to change everyone, we’d all look the same, save for stuff like eye and hair color. I like the idea that the surgeons like to push the Pretty Committee limits, like they did on Zane… It shows that they didn’t use some generic software.
    Now if only they could make the toy Shay and Tally used in uglies. That would be effin awesome!

  25. Ooh! Did I mention I finished Maureen Johnson’s “Suite Scarlette” (Haha, I found a typo where she left off the “e” in Scarlette’s name!) and I just started Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother.” It’s alright so far, a little confusing with all the high-technical stuff.

  26. Brigitte Bardot isn’t prettier. The DEFLATED her lips. They even admitted it. It’s not a beautification machine- it’s a generic-making machine!

  27. also, to me, all the pictures look the same….people all look similer as it is, so why the heck are people trying to go for a gold star? gosh….it’s like human intelligence is regressing….

  28. Lizzy-Wa – I’m Israeli, Hebrew is my first language. Actually, I live in Jerusalem (holy city, ring a bell?)
    I read a lot of English, but many of my friends don’t – so I’m really hoping more books will be translated=)
    Where are you from?

  29. well, by dad was born in Hong Kong, and my mom’s half Irish and part Swedish and part Luxembourgish (hehe) and part English. but i was born in the states. hehe. im a U.S.A.lien. hehe.

    that is SO cool! ive never met anyone from Jerusalem. except… i guess i still havent… hehe. oh well!

    wish i cood speak 2 languages…

    -Lizzy-wa OUT! 😀

  30. coolio………i’m just Canadian….and i don’t even speek french…lol…looks like the school system has yet another flaw…..i mean, Canada is supposedly bilingual…lol….i probably spelled that wrong….

  31. I’m so procrastinating rite now…

    so. isn’t the weather lovely today?

    yes, I think so too.

    quite, quite.

    *awkward silence*

    *more silence*

    I just can’t do this anymore! I love you, lotti-wa!

    I love you too, lotti-wa!

    Okay, that was just weird

  32. oh wow…i think i’ll go write that story for english that the teacher hasn’t even assigned yet….yes, that’s what i’ll do…i hope she doesn’t deduct marks for finishing it before she assigns it…..

  33. I think every one should see this, go to youtube and type in dove evolution, then think about that for a while. Then go over to the side, and watch dove evolution parody, think about that one and you decide which one makes more sense.

  34. That’s cool…
    I want to see what they would do to my face!

    I’ve been waiting for it since… forever!

  35. Andrea-la, don’t worry you spelt bilingual right. It’s just a weird word.
    Wait – how do you know what the assignment is if it hasn’t been assigned yet?

    I have sparky ancestry – English, Irish, Dutch German and Norwegian. The Norwegian bit is best cos some of them be Vikings 🙂
    But like I said, that’s ancestry. I’m just a boring Australien (spelt that way on purpose 🙂 )

    I know bits and pieces of German, Russian, Japanense, Spanish and French. I could carry a conversation and talk about stuff a bit in German and Russian, but the others I could do just a basic conversation.

    Irene that is so sparky, the whole lot. And your English is sparky as!

    Photoshop is fun when you get someone else’s face and muck with it.

  36. The thing with this is that in a few years, they might not necessarily be considered “pretty”, or at the least, not as pretty seeing as that people’s view of pretty tends to change through out the years.
    Like I saw a picture somewhere that meshed a whole bunch of famous people from a long time ago into one picture of what “pretty was for that time period, and another one next to it that had people from now.
    I’ve got to say that the pictures were pretty different or at least seemed to be. So if that’s the case then wouldn’t they have to research what people find pretty every few generations or so for their program to be ‘correct’ and that seems like too much of a haste, even for scientist.

    And Woahh!! Scott-sensai commented!!
    -in shock-
    Pft, I soo did not just point out the obvious :]

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