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Scot scientists reveal the ‘real face’ of Dr Who

Peter Capaldi will become the latest Dr Who as the series gears up for its 50th anniversary. Picture: BBC

Peter Capaldi will become the latest Dr Who as the series gears up for its 50th anniversary. Picture: BBC

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

SCOTTISH actor Peter Capaldi will be unveiled as the new Doctor tomorrow night in a much-anticipated Christmas Day Doctor Who special “The Time of the Doctor” on BBC 1.

He will be the latest incarnation of the legendary Time Lord in an illustrious list of actors who have portrayed the television hero since Doctor Who was first screened in 1963.

But a team of psychologists at a Scottish university have revealed what they claim to be the “real face” of the iconic time traveller.

It comes after they harnessed the latest developments in facial recognition technology to come up with a composite photograph of the man with the sonic screwdriver.

The experts at Aberdeen University’s Face Lab, where research is focused on the cognitive processes involved in the perception and recognition of faces, have developed their own incarnation of the Doctor.

And they have created what they claim to be the real face of the iconic TV hero by using cutting-edge “face averaging” technology, developed at the institution as part of their research into face recognition, to create the “average” face of the Doctor.

David Robertson from the university’s Face Lab said: “It’s interesting that the face we have developed is not dominated by the features of any one of the actors to have played the Doctor.

“Rather, it represents a combination of the averaged features of each actor to have taken on the role.

“Indeed, this face average could guide future casting directors in their search for the ideal actor to play the Time Lord.”

Images of the 13 actors who have filled the time-travelling hero’s shoes – from the inaugural Doctor, William Hartnell, to the new Time Lord Capaldi – were used to develop the image.

The scientists behind the new image said the project had highlighted the importance of “face averaging” in helping people to recognise and recall a person.

And they claimed the image provided a remarkable insight into the true identity of the mysterious character.

Mr Robertson continued: “Of course, Doctor Who takes on an entirely new face each time he regenerates. However, in the real world, people keep the same face but it varies considerably across their lifetime, and in photographs. How this relates to our ability to recognise faces is one of the key issues our current research is tackling.

“Evidence has shown that face averaging could be a powerful tool. Previous studies indicate that when you make an average image of a face – essentially creating a prototype with the irrelevant information removed – this significantly enhances the ability of a computer to correctly identify a face.”

Dr Robin Kramer, another member of the Face Lab team, explained: “The software we used allows us to identify specific landmarks on each of the images of the Doctor, such as the eyes, nose and mouth – what we call the ‘shape’ component.

“We then use these landmarks to average all of the images together, also taking into account their colour and texture.”

 

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