The new MediaTek MT6595 platform boasted support for an array of really high-grade camera features. Among 480fps 1080p video with 1/16 slow motion, support for 20.7MP camera lenses from Sony and much more the feature that grabbed my attention was the video beautification mode, something that I had only encountered in my darkest dreams.
Ok so maybe I am being a bit too harshs, but the truth that I have never really been convinced about beautification modes in regular photos, never mind videos. Unless the technology is applied sparingly the, odds are that your photo, selfie or whatever is going to end up looking a little odd. There are even cases where I would say the results look pretty horrific. Here are some classic beauty mode shots that Nicole and I have taken using various smartphone camera shots during our reviews.
This is how I look (a pasty, ginger haired bloke with freckles) using beauty mode. Pure horror show.
I don’t want to sound critical of MediaTek here, in fact it is fair to say that what MediaTek are actually doing is demonstrating just how good the performance of their new processor really is. Asking the MT6595 to process video effects like beautification on HD video in real-time really does take some serious grunt and is no doubt aided by the PowerVR graphics chip from Imagination.
The MediaTek demo shows the same beautification mode algorithms indeed being applied in real-time to video. There a few pretty standard effects that contribute to your supposed beauty, these are – eye enlargement, face whitening and face thinning. The effects can be applied on sliding scale, and as I mentioned, it’s probably better to be conservative rather than liberal when applying them.
I think the real issue I have with all of this, is not the wacky and sometimes outright creepy results we end up with, but the assumptions involved about what we consider to be beautiful. Beauty is a social construct and a very cultural one too, so to decide that photos of thinner, whiter faces with larger eyes are more beautiful than fuller, darker faces with small eyes, is a bit off the mark. These kinds of assumptions simply reinforce stereotyping, particularly towards women, who are the obvious target market for a beautification feature on a phone.
I don’t want to stereotype here, but in Asia, eye size is a very common measurement of beauty. Check out any Chinese fashion magazine or Japanese cartoon, eyes are big. Sometimes exaggeratedly big. As the West is often obsessed with tanning and having what is regarded as good color tone, in Asia girls want to have lighter skin tone. How popular would these features be in the West compared to Asia remains unclear. How popular in West Africa for example, is also unknown. Perhaps the manufacturers should try and find out.
I leave you with a video of our lovely Nicole who shows us a demo of the MediaTek chip doing its thing. The technology seems to work quite effectively at applying the filters in real-time, an impressive feat and something that is ground breaking in the world of smartphone cameras. If you have opinions on this subject, let us know in the comments below.