Microsoft's Age Guessing Site Is Spectacularly Wrong

SAN FRANCISCO -- Forget HoloLens. To heck with Microsoft Edge. And Windows 10? Wake me when it can tell my age. Microsoft may have had plenty to talk about at this week's Build Conference, but if Twitter timelines today (April 30) were anything to go by, the star of the show was a Web page that uses machine learning to pull off a trick straight out of a carnival midway -- it can analyze a photo and guess how old you are.

There's actually a point behind this age-guessing engine, featured during a presentation on Microsoft's Azure cloud offerings by Joseph Sirosh, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the cloud and enterprise group. The How Old Do I Look website was built as a way to play around with the Microsoft's Face Detection API. But as a pair of engineers explain in a post at Microsoft's Machine Learning Blog, it soon became a way to what can be produced with Microsoft's cloud offerings in a short amount of time. The developers say it took them just a day to build the Web page, which incorporates both streaming analytics and real-time business intelligence for logging the results.

MORE: 5 Key Takeaways From Microsoft Build

Build attendees, however, seemed more interested in gauging just how accurate How Old Do I Look could be, and I won't pretend to be above the fray. In fact, most of the Tom's Guide team got in on the fun.

The website pegged my age at 33, which is only four years off from how old I was when that picture was taken. Sadly, How Old Do I Look did not venture a guess as to the age of the scotch on display at Edinburgh's Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre.

Anna Attkisson, Managing Editor - Real age = 38.

Mark Spoonauer, Editor in Chief - Real age = 40 at the time.

Valentina Palladino, Senior Writer - Real age = 23.

Paul Wagenseil, Senior Editor - Real age = 48

Cherlynn Low, Staff Writer - Real age = 27.

Henry T. Casey, Staff Writer - Real age = 30.

People don't seem to be satisfied uploading their own pictures to Microsoft's age-guessing tool. In my Twitter timeline, I've seen age guesses for former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movie, and the massive cast of last year's Too Many Cooks meme.

And if Microsoft feels badly that people are overlooking the point about what Microsoft Azure can pull off, it should count its blessings. Another example in Sirosh's presentation centered on using connected data for monitoring when cows are in heat to help with livestock breeding. Trust me, that's not something you want to have go viral.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.