VIDEO: Dundee’s age-guessing mirror returns after V&A festival success

© Alan Richardson,
Ramanee Peiris, Steven Hunter, Pete Hewitt and Pam Lawrence, who tried out the SelfReflector mirror.

An age-guessing mirror which took the V&A London design festival by storm is back in its Dundee home and ready to thrill audiences again.

The SelfReflector is a mirror developed by a team of product designers at Dundee and Northumbria Universities.

The mirror has been on display at Dundee store Spex Pistols over the last year, and is described by shop-owner Richard Cook as one of the city’s “best kept secrets”.

The mirror captures the image of the person looking into it and, using a specially designed algorithm, tries to determine what year that person was 14.

Speakers attached to the mirror then go on to play a popular song from the year the SelfReflector has guessed.

Richard decided to have the mirror guess what year the person looking into it was 14 because it is the age most people first experience their “musical awakening”.

He said: “People using the mirror seem to really like the nostalgia it brings them, remembering songs from when they were younger.

“It is really interesting for people of all ages, and especially those like me who are a little bit older.

“Even if it plays a song you hated at the time, it resurfaces memories from when you were that age.

“It can bring back tastes, smells – who you spent time with when you were 14 -and that’s the age you were most likely responsive to pop music.

“People absolutely love the SelfReflector, even when it gets it wrong.”

Members of the public lined up on Wednesday to try out the mirror, and were altogether pleased with how much enjoyment the SelfReflector brought them.

Pam Lawrence, 32, said despite the mirror thinking she was a lot older than she was, she enjoyed the overall experience.

Pete Hewitt, 29, said the SelfReflector picked a Spice Girls song, and was out by a “good five or six years”.

Ramanee Peiris, 51, said she was “flattered” the mirror had picked a song which shaved several years off her actual age.

Steven Hunter, 52, was very happy the mirror had decided he was only 14 two years ago, after picking a song by Clean Bandits.

The SelfReflector has been on display at Spex Pistols for over a year, and was displayed in London during the V&A Digital Design weekend, as part of the V&A London Design Festival.

Martin Skelly, a lecturer in product design at Dundee University, was part of the team which took the SelfReflector down to the V&A Digital Design weekend as part of the London Design Festival.

He said: “The event provided a fantastic opportunity to exhibit the SelfReflector, and a great opportunity to display the research prototype to members of the public.

“The SelfReflector proved very popular at the V&A, and we had hundreds of people queuing to have a chance to try out the prototype over the course of the digital design weekend.”

Our man Paul Malik tried it for himself, and these were the results…

Spex Pistols owner Richard told me people enjoy hearing music from when they were a teenager because of the memories songs can stir up – even songs they hated at the time.

Stepping tentatively in front of the SelfReflector, my first thought was whether the song about to come blaring out of the shop’s speakers would be cool.

As a self-confessed teenage music-snob with baggy jeans and a terrible haircut, such existential contemplation was a daily ritual, and I was genuinely pleased to experience that completely useless emotion all over again.

When the intro to Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle kicked in I couldn’t help but smile – not only had the mirror correctly guessed how old I was, but it had picked a song I (foolishly) hated at the time.

So, two large ticks for the SelfReflector.

One for flooding me with teenage angst and nostalgia on a Wednesday afternoon, and a second for picking an absolute banger of a song.