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A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor (2013)

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Scientists on Earth last night issued a photofit of a Time Lord said to have been missing from Gallifrey for more than 900 years.

If you detect the careworn eyes of William Hartnell or something of the chiselled jaw of Matt Smith, that is under-standable.

The new portrait shows an amalgam of all the actors who have played the Doctor, up to and including Peter Capaldi, below, who is "regenerated" as the 12th doctor tomorrow. The image deploys a computer-driven "face-averaging" sys-tem developed by psychologists at the University of Aberdeen. In the real world it could be used for passport recogni-tion, but with David Robertson, a self-confessed "Doctor Who nut", on the team it was perhaps inevitable that the por-trait should emerge before one of the most popular TV shows of the Christmas holiday. Mr Robertson said serious re-search into face recognition was intended to capture the variability of an individual's appearance at different stages of life, or at the same age but in varying light conditions.

"People often look at a photo and say 'that looks nothing like you'," said Mr Robertson, 26, a PhD student. "We believe that to best capture how to characterise a person's face we must understand how they vary across different conditions - it might be the key to proper face recognition software."

Doctor Who presented an unusual challenge because it meant the project was focused not on a single individual, but on many.

"Face Lab" software enabled researchers to identify specific features on each incarnation of the Doctor, such as the eyes, nose and mouth -- known as the "shape" components. These features were then used to average all of the images together, taking into account other factors such as skin colour. The result is a long-faced man in early middle age, with a good head of hair and blue eyes. Practically, the image could prove useful to Dr Who's producers, said Mr Robert-son.

"You could ask whether they are commanding faces, masculine faces, the face of a male in the hero role," he said. "Future casting directors could use this face as a template to see whether an actor matches the predecessors in certain features."

If a woman were to be cast as the 13th Doctor, the system would not be rendered useless, Mr Robertson said. "It would be a new direction for the show, but face-averaging doesn't distinguish between men and women. This is a mathemati-cal, statistical process."

Research shows that people are usually able to recognise pictures of relatives and friends at different stages of life, or when they have been photographed in a variety of settings, but our "unfamiliar" face recognition is poor.

Mr Robertson said: "If you took 20 different pictures of a stranger, research shows you would sort them into three or four different piles."

Researchers have found a ten per cent margin of error in recognising strangers from the photographs and this poor recognition has potential implica-tions at airports and ferry terminals. "At somewhere like Heathrow a 10 per cent error equates to 2,000 mistakes a day ," said Mr Robertson.

"That is unacceptable in terms of national security and the main driving force behind our research." However, those people arriving by Tardis have little to fear at passport control, he conceded.

The Time of the Doctor: BBC 7.30pm on Christmas Day

GRAPHIC: The portrait is based on serious research into face recognition technology

Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, above, and Peter Capaldi, left, the latest Doctor Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Wade, Mike (2013-12-24). A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor. The Times p. 17.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Wade, Mike. "A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor." The Times [add city] 2013-12-24, 17. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Wade, Mike. "A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor." The Times, edition, sec., 2013-12-24
  • Turabian: Wade, Mike. "A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor." The Times, 2013-12-24, section, 17 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/A_Who%27s_Who_of_Time_Lords_as_image_merges_12_faces_of_Doctor | work=The Times | pages=17 | date=2013-12-24 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2018 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=A Who's Who of Time Lords as image merges 12 faces of Doctor | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/A_Who%27s_Who_of_Time_Lords_as_image_merges_12_faces_of_Doctor | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 November 2018}}</ref>