"Magic Mirror" - A Reflection That Ages You - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/11/08 San Diego, CA

"Magic Mirror" - A Reflection That Ages You

A real water lover, Jon Melko figures he's fit. "I'm very active. If I'm not working, I'm usually in the water diving, swimming, fishin'."

But Jon has some bad habits, too. "Smoking, occasionally drinking, social drinker, fast food -- because I'm always on the go."

So, knowing these things aren't exactly healthy, he wonders what the toll will be on his body a couple years from now if he keeps it up.well, this special digital device may have his answer. 

"Rather than simply provide reflection, what it does is make a transformation on the image and show it back to the person. and, that transformation is intended to approximate what somebody might look like if somebody continues to engage in a prolonged set of behaviors," says Andrew Fano, Director with Accenture Labs Research.

It's called a persuasive mirror. Under development by Accenture Labs, the hope is people will be able to see how they'll look in the future, and maybe change behaviors because of it. "The idea is -a picture is worth a thousand warnings," adds Andrew.

These are all before and after images of models who have already tried out this prototype "magic mirror." How does it work? You answer a list of questions about your habits.... from how often you exercise to how much TV you watch... whether you smoke or visit the fridge a lot. That information is input into a special software program...which then matches your data with pictures taken by digital cameras connected to the mirror.

Andrew says, "What we do to make the mirror aspect of this work is interpolate an intermediate image. And, it's on this intermediate image that we apply a series of transformations that are intended to show the effect of certain behaviors."

But this is no toy--the lab sees this mirror as a tool for health providers in the future. That's why researchers at the University of California San Diego recently put it to the test. They just completed a study to see how persuasive the mirror might be. Their subjects were children-a group of major concern when it comes to obesity.

"This is a common problem that needs a new way of thinking about it," says Dr. Jeannie Huang, with the University of California San Diego.

But the mirror could work on any age group...on any behavior. The concept can be very convincing.

"It's one thing to tell someone to stop smoking, or to eat less. It's another to show them what happens if they don't, or also to show them what happens if they do," says Andrew. 

Jon says it would definitely make a difference to him. Jon says, "Eating better, quitting smoking, things like that."

The results of this study done in San Diego won't be out until at least May. That information will then be used to continue fine-tuning the mirror before taking it to the rest of the medical community.

Gillian Sheridan, Reporting gsheridan@kltv.com

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