I’m looking at Walter White in the mirror. I am him. He is me. With the click of a button, he becomes a white-skinned Barack Obama. Weird. Then he’s Justin Bieber. Then he’s Kim Kardashian. Sup Kanye.
“It’s a really eerie effect to ‘wear’ someone else’s face when you’re mostly used to seeing your own face in the mirror,” Øygard tells Co.Design. “I noticed that I subconsciously changed my facial expressions depending on which face I was ‘wearing,’ which was kind of funny.”
Indeed, even though the effect is imperfect–full of murky pixels, with a tendency to twist from your face if you turn your head too often–it’s good enough to seriously throw off your sense of self. Sure, your brain may very well expect to see Sean Connery’s face within CLMtrackr’s tiny demo box, but your heart still anticipates the comforting, if imperfect, vision of you. I imagine the feeling of CLMtrackr is what someone experiences after plastic surgery when the wraps come off.
The implications stretch beyond a personal identity crisis. “I think a lot of things are coming together right now that makes it possible to change or augment your perception of reality,” Øygard explains. “Face substitution is one of the things which probably will get much better over time and we’ll see it pop up more places.”
It’s not hard to imagine a Glass app that worked just like CLMtrackr, masking the faces around you with avatars of all sorts–enlarging our eyes, smoothing out our moles, and adding symmetry where it’s lacking. Maybe digital technology could become an alternative to plastic surgery, as a combination of software and hardware could allow people to craft their ideal digital face and broadcast that around society rather than their flabby analog one.
But until then, we’ll have to settle for giggling to our laptops when seeing our face as the Mona Lisa.