Xiamoi’s new flagship Mi 6 phone launched in April with top-of-the-line specs, like the Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 5.15-inch display, and a 12-megapixel dual camera system. It also includes an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an automatic beautifying filter and AI that’ll try to guess your gender and age. Why does it do this? I have no idea.
I tested the feature out this week, only to determine that it doesn’t work well. Shocker. I’m 26, but the camera thought I was 24, 27, 40, and 29 at one point. It also wavered between marking me as a female or male. (Again, why?) Apparently glasses aged me and made me look more manly. You can see the results in the photos below. I tried to give myself wrinkles, but that didn’t have much of an effect on the AI’s age and gender decision. It didn’t correctly guess my colleagues’ ages, either.
Phones that are created primarily for markets outside of the US often include superfluous camera features, like overt beauty filters and other selfie gimmicks, but including an age- and gender-guessing AI is a bizarre move.
Granted, other companies have built similar functionality. Amazon released a tool earlier this year that attempted to guess people’s ages, too, although it provides an age range as opposed to an exact number. Microsoft also launched an age-guessing website that failed miserably and subsequently went viral. At least in Amazon’s case, the goal was to give developers a tool for general object recognition and labeling for their products and services. I don’t see a legitimate reason for Xiaomi making its age guesses available to its users. I guess if it consistently told people they look younger than they are, however, then maybe that’d be a feature worth having.