Several months ago, I wrote about how well iPhoto and others were detecting matches across generations of relatives.  That post asked “How Long Before Family Trees Can Be Built of Facial Recognition?”   Crazily, we got a partial “yes” answer already!

A pair of scientists, Christoffer Nellåker and Andrew Zisserman, from the University of Oxford have apparently developed software is able to detect rare genetic disorders from just facial recognition.

From the New Scientist article posted today:

“Doctors faced with the tricky task of spotting rare genetic diseases in children may soon be asking parents to email their family photos. A computer program can now learn to identify rare conditions by analysing a face from an ordinary digital photograph. It should even be able to identify unknown genetic disorders if groups of photos in its database share specific facial features.”

Image: University of Oxford

There are about 90 disorders that the system can currently detect. Not surprisingly, it’s not 100% accurate yet; you’ll need a doctor’s follow-up on the results. You won’t be loading your iPhone with a selfie from your kid to diagnose it yourself. But it’s definitely good enough to warrant a check from a doctor to help decide whether they should test further. It’s not crazy to think of a world, only a few years away, where every child’s photo is run through this check as part of his or her physical. With many doctors already running around using iPads with cameras, it certainly would be fairly cheap and easy to drop into their workflow.

If this technology can extend to detecting relational features of the face, then Maury’s going to have to find a new schtick.  The people coming onto the show for “You Are The Father” would see it coming instead of being quite so surprised.

About the Author -

Hi, I'm Bryan. Thanks for dropping in my little corner of the Internet. I am currently Head of Consumer Products at PayScale, responsible for the design of the company's consumer-facing web and mobile experiences. Before that, I was Redfin's first (and only) Vice President of Products, responsible for the design of Redfin's website, mobile applications, agent tools and information technology systems. Prior to joining Redfin, I worked for nearly ten years at Microsoft as both an engineering manager and a lead program manager. He was responsible for integrating major partners' services with Microsoft's mobile technologies and, prior to that, building I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go Badgers!) with a degree in computer science and communication arts (tv, radio & film.)