In Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, the eponymous subject keeps his youthful looks while the vagaries of age are visited upon his portrait in the attic. Now a digital version of Wilde’s idea is being developed to show you what you will look like in five years’ time if you take no exercise, eat too much junk food and drink too much alcohol.

At Accenture Technology’s lab in Sophia Antipolis, near Nice in France, a flat-screen LCD TV linked to a set of cameras and a powerful image-processing computer replaces the portrait described in Wilde’s novel.

Initially the system acts just like a sophisticated “mirror” in which an image captured by a wireless camera is displayed in front of you. But that’s just the start. Its main purpose is to conjure up a computer-modified image of the effects of overindulgence at the press of a button, says Accenture lab director Martin Illsey.

To do this the computer builds up a profile of your lifestyle, using a network of high-resolution cameras dotted around the house. These webcams will feed images of your everyday activities to a computer running software that is able to recognise different patterns of behaviour. It will be able to identify, for instance, when you have spent most of the day sitting on the couch instead of on the exercise bike, and will spot visits to the fridge for snacks and drinks. Verbal or text prompts from the computer will ask you to identify what you are eating and drinking. Of course, how honest you are is up to you.

Once the computer has built up this profile, a different software package will extrapolate how this behaviour is likely to affect your weight in the long term. If the computer feels you are eating too much, it will calculate how many pounds to add to the image of the person standing in front of the mirror.

Another package will work on your face. Too much alcohol? Expect early wrinkles and blotchy skin. “Technology can be quite persuasive,” Illsey says. “There will be several options for the visual feedback the user gets, ranging from weight gain to modifying skin tone to increasing the shadows under the eyes.”

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