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Can This Algorithm Calculate Style?

Susie Bubble

Image: Imaxtree

What do computer nerds know about fashion, you ask? Maybe a little more than you think. A pair of computer scientists, Raquel Urtasun and Sanja Fidler, have developed an algorithm that promises to make your #OOTD postings that much more stylish. “Our goal is to learn and predict how fashionable a person looks on a photograph and suggest subtle improvements the user could make to improve her/his appeal,” they write in a paper describing how their magic formula works. 

The algorithm breaks down a photo of someone in an outfit, taking into consideration a few factors, including the kind of garments the wearer has on, the wearer’s physical characteristics and what setting the person is in, as well as the “fashionability” of the image and the country/city the wearer is in. If such data is available, they also factor in how many “likes” a photo has.

To help create the formula, the pair collected 144,169 posts from chictopia.com. Urtasun and Fidler agree that fashionability is subjective – it varies depending on the person, where that person happens to live, etc. But their algorithm focuses more on what generally seems to be popular among those who consume fashion and live for #OOTD posts. If anything, their formula will allow people to be able to tweak their shared images in order to cater to a mainstream ideal of what is attractive, though fashion die-hards can argue that real fashionistas say screw all that and march to their own beat.

Quartz notes that the algorithm can be useful in helping companies analyze trends, which, given the parameters by which the formula calculates the fashion factor, makes perfect sense. Still, we can’t count on such equations to measure “fashionability” outside the generic realm. “Whether a person on a photograph is truly fashionable is probably best decided by fashion experts. It is also to some extent a matter of personal taste, and probably even depends on the nationality and the gender of the viewer,” Urtasun and Fidler’s paper reads. 

Of course, there are a few kinks to work out – Fidler and Urtasun hope to diversify the selection of images and branch out to other sources in order to get a calculation more reflective of trends. But so far, it seems the pair have been able to, at the very least, create a new tool for people to use in order to determine what is cool to the general public. It will never be a replacement for the keen eye of a fashion editor, but it will likely help at least a few people figure out how to improve their #OOTD posts.

[via Quartz]