What would you do if someone told you, rather rudely, that you are so ugly that “your face could turn milk into yogurt just by looking at it”? Or, “If ugliness were bricks you’d be the Great Wall of China”?
If you own an iPhone or the latest model of iPod, you would have guessed that I am talking about this new application called Ugly Meter—a measuring tool that ranks your looks on a scale of 1 to 10 and, depending on how you score, offers in-your-face comments. It’s fairly complimentary if you get a low score (“You’re so hot that you make the sun jealous”) but anything over 4 and it gets rude and nasty (“When you walk into the bank they turn off the cameras”).
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Once you have downloaded the application it lets you take a photo of someone’s face, quickly scans and “analyses” their facial contours, and delivers its verdict on a 10-point scale. The higher the score the uglier the face and, to add insult to injury, the more offensive the message.
The application has been designed by people who call themselves the Dapper Gentlemen. It costs 99 cents (about Rs 44) to download from the Apple website, and has become a talking point among iPhone owners, especially the younger lot.
I tested it on my family and friends and their reaction varied with the score: “How silly” (score 7.4; comment: You’re so ugly a farmer could use your picture for a scarecrow) to “wow” (score 0.2; you are hot enough to melt ice). But if you don’t like your score you can always ask for a reshoot. The Ugly Meter shows a different score every time you scan the same face: a slight change in the angle or light and the score drops or moves up by a few points—a relatively good-looking person can be declared downright ugly.
The application reminds me of the weighing scales at railway stations, the ones that look like juke boxes with mirrors, flashing lights and a colourful wheel. You insert a coin and out comes a ticket that gives you your weight and also a horoscope printed at the back. If you don’t like the horoscope you can always insert another coin and weigh yourself again.
In fairness to the developers of Ugly Meter, they told us upfront that it’s not a tool for measuring beauty; it is, as the name suggests, more about lack of beauty. They say their application “is based on actual science linking (facial) symmetry to beauty”. Hollywood star Angelina Jolie scored 2.0 out of 10 (”You’re so hot that you make the sun jealous”).
I’ve seen an interesting documentary on research that links facial symmetry—the alignment of ears, mouth and eyes and the gap between them—to our perception of beauty or sex appeal. The developers of the Ugly Meter have created a grid of a face on which your photograph is superimposed and your beauty or ugliness is graded. But the Dapper Gentlemen have also said that their application is “meant to be a light-hearted game, not any kind of scientific tool”.
As applications go, it is imaginative, creative and, with its collection of insults, can be a conversation piece among friends. However, some people think that school kids who have a tendency to bully others might use the Ugly Meter to make fun of their classmates. Personally, I doubt if any sensible person will feel offended by this amusing application—unless they have serious self-esteem issues.
There’s another fun application called Oldbooth, which shows you what you would have looked like if you lived in another era, but it’s not half as entertaining as the Ugly Meter.
I did a Google search for “ugly people” and stumbled upon what boxer Muhammad Ali said about Joe Frazier: “(He) is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US bureau of wildlife.” As an experiment, I downloaded Frazier’s picture and tested it on my iPhone. Guess his score? Absolutely perfect: 0.0 on 10, with a comment: “How does it feel to be the sexiest person in the room?”
If Joe Frazier is good-looking, well, I’ll be damned!
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor, Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.
Write to Shekhar at firstname.lastname@example.org