• HealthLAB Time Machine App (Healthlab)Source: Healthlab
Ever wondered how you'll look at 60? What if you're a smoker? This new app will show you the difference.
Rae Johnston

27 Oct 2020 - 11:25 AM  UPDATED 2 Nov 2020 - 4:41 PM

Imagine if you could look into the future and see what impact decades of smoking, excessive alcohol or junk food could have on your face. A new app created with a group of tech-loving kids in the Northern Territory can do just that.

Ninety per cent of all deaths on our continent are caused by chronic diseases, and the major contributors to those diseases are smoking, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol and lack of exercise.

The Healthlab Time Machine app - made with IBM, the Menzies School of Health and Research and KWP Technology - uses selfies and facial remodelling technology to show the difference a healthy lifestyle can make.

After taking a photo, the app shows how you would age with a healthy lifestyle, compared to how you would age if you were smoking, drinking in excess, or not exercising.

Raelene Collins from Menzies School of Health and Research said while the glimpse into the future is a bit of fun, it is also sparking important conversations.

"I think it's a great tool to show kids, especially young ones out in the community how their choices affect them now, and how it will affect them in the future. And what they could possibly look like," Ms Collins told NITV News.

"A lot of young ones these days, they compare themselves to celebrities. And this is a great way to show you can look like that. You just got to make the right choices now."

Teenagers are "notoriously difficult" to engage in conversations about healthy lifestyles, according to Head of Menzies Healthlab, Heidi Smith-Vaughn. Their work is targeting remote areas, in many languages, in the middle of a pandemic.

"The solution had to capture the attention of youth, it had to be primarily visual to overcome language barriers, and it had to be transportable to overcome travel restrictions," said Ms Smith-Vaughn.

Selfies were an "obvious" way to engage with teenagers, said Natalie Morley, managing director of KWP Technology.

"They are never far from their phones, and Artificial Intelligence is second nature to them," said Ms Morley. "We're proud to have been able to bring creativity that works to deliver such important health outcomes."

IBM's James Jackson told NITV News the tech giant was "really excited" to partner with Menzies to bring the Time Machine to life.

"I wish I'd seen it many years ago," said Mr Jackson, "It's quite confronting. Hopefully, it can help [teenagers] make informed health and lifestyle choices at an early point."

The free app has been made available for iOS users to download. 

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