YOU could be forgiven for wondering what the subject of computer science, often portrayed as a haven for the antisocial geek, has to do with steamy topics such as sex, evolution, health and attractiveness, but these are exactly the areas that my research is involved with.
I work with research psychologists, cosmetics manufacturers and medical professionals interested in faces.
I develop software and algorithms to help them study images, videos and 3D models of faces.
The analysis and synthesis of facial images has long been a topic of interest for computer scientists, and is still an active area of research in laboratories around the world.
There are a wide range of applications, including face recognition for security, interpreting facial expression for robotics and human computer interaction, face reconstruction for forensics or facial animation for animated films. Although a great deal of progress has been made, there are still many areas that could be improved - face recognition that can handle changes in the subject's age, or a wide variety of poses, expressions and lighting.
In facial animation, although impressive results have been achieved, by tracking markers placed on an actor's face for example, a great deal of input is still required from talented animators.
My research started with a PhD project developing software for analysing the shapes of patients' faces for surgeons, helping them to plan and evaluate their treatments.
The main focus of the project was cleft-lip and cleft palate, conditions that affect about one in every 700 newborn babies.
More recently, I have been working with orthodontists, analysing both cleft lip and palate and also congenital hypodontia (missing teeth). …