Turn That Smile Upside Down: Posing at the VA DMV
So Virginia's DMV wants motorists to maintain a "neutral expression" when posing for their driver's license photos. That's fine with me. That's how I go through life anyway: all the muscles in my face slack, my skin hanging loose.
I find it saves energy. It may take more muscles to frown than smile, but it takes more muscles to smile than to stand there impassively as if you've been hit by a thorazine-filled tranquilizer dart.
Besides, what is there to smile about anyway these days? North Korea says it'll attack at the slightest provocation. The economy still isn't sure which direction it's heading. Scientists have invented glowing green monkeys. And someone is shooting at a nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland. Oh, wait, it's only the police shooting at the nuclear power plant. Never mind.
By all means, maintain a neutral expression. It's the best we can ask for.
The issue, you see, is that Virginia has a new facial recognition computer system and things like teeth confuse it. One solution might have been to wait until someone came up with better software. Instead, the DMV has chosen to tell people not to smile.
It's not as if those driver's license portraits were anything to celebrate in the first place. It's not like Richard Avedon or Annie Liebovitz is clicking the shutter over at the DMV. A typical driver's license looks something like this:
You can see the problem right away, even if you're not a computer. The motorist is smiling, as if he's cracking up over some joke only he understands.
Just look at those teeth:
The expression is insufficiently neutral. Those choppers could be anybody's. Much safer, I think, to black out the teeth so the computer isn't confused:
Hmmm. That's better. But the nose and the ears are potential problems. The software works best when all the images are similar and that schnoz looks like trouble. Let's get rid of it. And the ears, just to be safe:
Computer, what do you think? Still not there? Of course! The eyes. The eyes are the best way to identify someone. They're like fingerprints, no two alike. In sci-fi movies and thrillers don't the characters always get their irises scanned? In the future, the best driver's license photo will show only the eyes:
I think we're there. Don't worry about bringing your own burqa when you go to get your license renewed. The DMV will supply it for you.
Posted by: MikeM_inColumbia | May 28, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse
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