21.06.19 – 06.10.19

Biometric Mirror





Computer generated algorithms that claim to accurately analyse your face, are increasingly being used by governments and corporations to make decisions, identify patterns and predict outcomes. Whilst targeted advertising and personalised recommendations systems might improve your life, do they always get it right? Do systems that claim to identify a person’s sexuality, beauty, gender or ethnicity raise ethical questions? Biometric Mirror is a research-based Sci Fi installation that questions the accuracy and assumptions of facial recognition algorithms. Participants entering a futuristic Sci Fi beauty salon have their biometric data scanned revealing a mathematically ‘perfect’ version of their own face based. The new version is based on an algorithm by a Hollywood plastic surgeon, Dr Stephen Marquardt, who hoped to define mathematical parameters of beauty. Whose version of perfection is it?


Lucy McRae is a sci-fi artist, film director, TED Fellow and body architect, placing the human body in complex, futuristic scenarios that confound the boundaries between the natural and artificial. Lucy’s award-winning science fiction artworks have been developed in collaboration with leading institutes including NASA, MIT and Ars Electronica. Her work has been exhibited at the London Science Museum, Centre Pompidou and the Venice Biennale.

Dr Niels Wouters is a research scientist at The Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces (SocialNUI) at The University of Melbourne. SocialNUI is a place of collaborative research for creating and understanding innovative Natural User Interfaces that facilitate human communication, collaboration and social interaction.


Built by Sandpit

Deeper Dive

Kevin Koidl

Research Fellow Department of Computer Science and ADAPT Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin

Biometric AI has grown to become an interesting and at the same time daunting technological advancement. It builds on training a statistic machine learning algorithm to mimic the decisions of individuals towards the emotion response they have when seeing a facial expression. Is trustworthy or threatening? Is it authentic or deceiving? It is tempting to use this technology to preempt the mood of an individual and to advance how we relate to each other and to the robots of the future. Can we simulate moods though? Is it enough to look at the facade to infer what is happening inside? These are important questions and beautifully addressed by this exhibition

Odhran Shelley

Consultant Plastic surgeon and Director of the National Burns unit St James’s Hospital Dublin.. Clinical lecturer Trinity College Dublin

Perfection is a composite of individual and subjective taste. Many of the ideal measurements defined in aesthetic surgery are averages of perceived beauty, with dimensions and angles which fulfil the viewers taste.

Plastic surgery uses these accepted proportions to determine how appearance can be enhanced. These ideals however fail to capture many obviously beautiful individuals from across different cultures . Indeed many strikingly beautiful individuals have facial asymmetries and significantly different proportions to the aesthetic ideal. And achieving ideal proportions often results in appearance that seems a predicted pattern rather than the perfection expected.

Striving for the uniform ideal through cosmetic surgery, reduces the visual contribution of a person’s own features, and expression lines, which shape a person’s unique appearance , and therefore changes and at times erases the individuals visible character to those around.

As a surgeon I find the greatest inspiration in those individuals who have overcome great injury. With scars and disfigurement highlighting the challenges and difficulties which people have overcome, telling a story of success over adversity. Illustrating the great personal determination necessary to get up in the morning, or simply walk down a street , in a critical world. Such individuals provide a greater inspiration to others than perfection can.

As such, disfigurement, more than the ideal appearance , illustrate that true beauty is within. It is imperfection, rather than perfection that defines who we are.

Interview with DR NIELS WOUTERS
What is Biometric Mirror?

Biometric Mirror is a research-based sci-fi installation that questions the accuracy and assumptions of facial recognition systems and artificial intelligence. Algorithms that claim to accurately analyse your face are increasingly being used by governments and corporations to make decisions, identify patterns and predict outcomes. Yet, while targeted advertising and personalised recommendation systems might improve our quality of life, some systems raise important ethical questions that require public debate. Biometric Mirror aims to facilitate this debate by enabling the public to experience first-hand the future of personality analysis and beauty treatment. Visitors will enter a futuristic sci-fi beauty salon and have an artificial intelligence system scan biometric data to propose a mathematically ‘perfect’ version of their own face. But whose version of perfection is it really?

What motivated you to create it?

Most people nowadays have lost touch with how new technologies can affect them and - in broader terms - how they influence the everyday activities in society. Most often there’s no reason for concern as most technology will ultimately benefit society. But in recent months and years there is growing concern about the effect of some technologies and algorithms. We keep embracing technology and algorithms to make our lives better, easier, yes - more perfect, but we don’t realise that this requires us to sacrifice bits of ourselves. We may have to give up privacy or we may be required to allow algorithms to scrutinise our personality and identity to enable access to a service. People have lost their sense of data consciousness as a result of developments in the past decade, and that is a concern we urgently need to address. Biometric Mirror aims to spark the much-needed conversation in this space, in an exciting, engaging and future-focused way, enabling all of us to formulate answers to the question where we want technology to take us.

What questions is the work seeking to ask?

- Where do we draw boundaries between physical and digital experiences?
- How do we behave and change as members of society if everyday physical experiences gain a digital focus?
- Do we agree with personality and beauty analyses by way of Artificial Intelligence and black box algorithms that we cannot control? What are the consequences of these practices on society?