4/27/15 – Alberta Chu and Murray O. Robinson

Alberta Chu and Murray O. Robinson | Faces, Genes, Patterns, Stories 

April 27, 2015
7:00 – 8:00pm
@ List Visual Arts Center, Bartos Theatre
Event Hashtag: #CCFaces
Reception to follow
Free and open to the public
RSVP

Event Details

We are pleased to present filmmaker Alberta Chu and research scientist Murray Robinson as they discuss the ideas that led to their current collaboration: FaceTopo. This project stems from their interest in the genetics of faces and a big question - “A clear but genetically complex trait, could one’s face possibly represent a visible proxy for one’s genome? Is it possible to eschew the DNA part and just map faces?”

They have set out to build a taxonomy of human adult faces by conceiving a global citizen project to crowd-source 3D face data from users via a mobile App. Chu and Robinson challenge the notion of ideal beauty. For them, data is beautiful: the more diverse facial data that they can obtain from different people(s) globally, the more accurate their study will be. By collecting thousands of faces as varied as possible and analyzing the data, they aim to discover relationships that are significant to all faces.

Murray O. Robinson “Genetics of Faces”

Through a personal connection with one of my brothers, I became interested in the genetics of faces.  Faces are highly genetically-defined and are certainly one of the most visible traits in humans.  We have a difficult time distinguishing between twins, we all recognize family resemblances, and we (or more often our friends) occasionally encounter our doppelgangers out in the world.  Yet none of us are exactly alike; we each carry with us our unique life experiences, and we’re now learning that each of us has a unique genome that differs from our parents’.  

Linking our genes to our faces is an emerging, yet very challenging area of inquiry in genomics. How far has the field progressed? How far does it have to go?  Will we someday be able to recreate a face from residual DNA in discarded chewing gum?

A clear but genetically complex trait, could one’s face possibly represent a visible proxy for one’s genome?  Is it possible to eschew the DNA part and just map faces?  

Alberta Chu “A Face in the Cloud”

People see faces everywhere: in clouds, Rorschach inkblots, and even grilled cheese sandwiches. Neuroscientists have discovered that specific regions of the brain are active in seeing and recognizing faces. Leonardo Da Vinci, the first person to study anatomy in detail and actually document it, studied facial proportions and defined ideal facial aesthetics based on the golden mean. We see faces featured throughout the history of art.

How does one approach quantifying faces? We set out to build a taxonomy of 3D faces by conceiving FaceTopo, a global citizen project to crowd-source 3D face data. We are developing a mobile App so anyone with an iphone can create their own 3D facemap and join the community.

We challenge the notion of Da Vinci’s ideal beauty. For us, data is beautiful: the more diverse facial data we can obtain from different people(s) globally, the more accurate our study will be. By collecting thousands of faces as varied as possible and analyzing the data, we should discover relationships that are significant to almost all faces. We have our hypotheses about the patterns and math of faces, but we also anticipate unexpected findings to emerge from the data. In building the FaceTopo project, we hope to create a cloud-based platform for exploring personal narratives.

About the Speakers

Dr. Robinson has spent more than two decades in biotech research and executive roles working to identify and develop targeted cancer therapies.  Through his work on cancer, Murray was drawn to the emerging field of genomics, where he recently launched an effort to biologically annotate the genome.  Combining genes, algorithms, data visualization and lots of data, Dr. Robinson builds tools to better understand how the subtle variation in each of our genomes contributes to our unique traits.

www.molquant.com
Twitter: @ASKmr

Alberta Chu investigates the intersections of art, science, technology, and design. Chu has inspired global audiences with stories of art and science collaboration, techno-artists, technology subcultures, innovation, and the creation of monumental artworks. Recent projects include documentaries about an MIT Media Lab Hackathon and the creation of the “Breaking Wave” kinetic sculpture (Biogen, Cambridge, MA). Chu has a background in biology and has produced popular science programming for television. She is excited to explore the possibilities of FaceTopo as a platform to form personal narratives.

www.asklabs.com
www.facetopo.com
Twitter: @ASKlabsAlberta