The nature of beauty

I had a very strange idea recently. It’s not something I’m ever likely to build, but the concept itself appeals to me, because it seems to illuminate something worth thinking about.

Imagine a multimedia interface in the form of a timeline. Behind this timeline is a massive time-tagged database of pictures of people’s faces, perhaps culled from Google Images.

In this imagined interface, you scroll forward or backward in time. As you scroll, you can see these faces continually morph to be whatever age they were at that moment of the timeline. You can zoom time in to watch a person’s face change slowly, or zoom time out literally watch their life go by.

Significant events, like a birthday, or the very first or very last photograph ever taken of a person, will cause that individual’s face to become temporarily larger on the display. Or you can highlight one or more individuals, and their visage will remain prominent as their life passes before your eyes.

You might think that the sight of someone aging before our eyes, as they lose their conventionally unblemished youthful beauty, would be cruel. But I suspect that’s not all we would see. I suspect we might see something else entirely in some of these faces. A kind of wisdom, or understanding, or dignity — or acceptance — that wasn’t there in the younger version.

And in the process, we might just learn a thing or two about the nature of beauty.

5 Responses to “The nature of beauty”

  1. Guzman says:

    This reminds me of Picasa Face Movies:

    it takes the pictures (automatically) tagged with the same person’s name
    and produces a movie.


  2. admin says:


    Yes, morphing and image matching technology is certainly not a bottleneck. If there is any technological hurdle, it would be in accurate time-tagging of each image.

  3. manooh says:

    Your post reminded me of the Khronos projector I tried at Ars Electronica Festival some years back:

    Maybe it would make you experience the nature of beauty in an even more tangible way..

  4. Mari says:

    Khronos at Todai, that’s very cool, thanks for the link!

  5. admin says:

    Thank you Manooh, for that very timely comment! :-)

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