ID software differentiates between the authentic appearance of Santa Claus and his substitutes.

The algorithm reveals the distinct appearance of the man in red, proving that not just any bearded man looks like him.
Santa impersonators should be cautious. Scientists have created a machine that can detect Santa and used it to confirm what children have been telling adults for generations – Santa has a unique face that sets him apart from other older bearded men.
Past studies have indicated that children as young as three can identify Santa Claus based on his distinctive looks.
“Santa Claus or Father Christmas is undoubtedly a very recognizable person, but we wondered if this is because of his clothing, his beard, or his face?” said Dr. Thomas Wright, a clinical geneticist at the University of Manchester who led the research. “Until now, no one has ever systematically and scientifically examined the modern face of Father Christmas.”
To investigate, Wright and his team trained a deep-learning facial recognition algorithm – similar to the facial ID software used to unlock smartphones or identify people in digital photo libraries – using numerous images of Santa found on the internet. They then utilized the software to analyze additional images of Santa, as well as other adult and elderly men with beards.
“The important thing is that this algorithm only focuses on the facial features. It doesn’t consider what the individual is wearing or the colors in the photograph. We wanted to know if Father Christmas has a facial phenotype that is discernible from other adult men or other elderly bearded men,” explained Wright.
The research, published in the journal Vision, confirmed that Santa’s face is distinguishable from those of other men. However, whether internet representations of Santa accurately depict the real magical inhabitant of the North Pole is something only Rudolph and his friends could confirm.
Their tool also did not identify images of Saint Nicholas, an early Christian bishop from the Middle East who is believed to have inspired the modern concept of Father Christmas through his secret gift-giving. It also did not classify Walter Clement Shields, an Alaskan man from the early 20th century who was recently proposed as a prototype for Santa, even though he too delivered gifts via reindeer sleigh.
Wright intends to investigate whether other festive characters like Papa Noël, Tomte, Julenissen, Ded Moroz, Sinterklaas, and Los Reyes Magos would pass the test. He also wants to include dedicated Santa impersonators who participate in the annual World Santa Claus Congress.
Wright suggested that the tool could be further developed to provide a Santa “lookalike score” rather than just categorizing individuals as “Santa,” “adult man,” or “elderly bearded man.”
Additionally, it would be intriguing to explore whether other folklore characters such as the Tooth Fairy, Robin Hood, and Tom Thumb also have distinct faces, he added.

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