Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Phony Photos

PostedDecember 11, 2011

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Anchor Lede: As we’re being bombarded with holiday ads showing beautiful models and products, do you ever wonder how real the photos really are?

Randy Atkins: In the digital age, photos are more easily manipulated than ever. Maybe you’re OK with being slightly fooled, say by adding a bit of color to a model’s face, but not with…

Hany Farid: …more significant alterations like removing thirty-percent of a person’s body mass.

Randy Atkins: Hany Farid, a computer scientist at Dartmouth College, has engineered a new tool that can tell how noticeably a picture changes from the original.

Hany Farid: The technical part builds a mathematical model for how a photo is retouched, and then we asked human observers to look at the images and rate them on a scale of one to five.

Randy Atkins: Farid’s system, which relates the human and digital data, could help consumers and even photo manipulators…because it’s easy to, even accidentally, go up that scale very quickly.

Hany Farid: You make one small change and another small change and another one and pretty soon you’re looking at a picture of a Barbie doll.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.