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The styling of your vehicle makes a statement, of course. Designers spend years perfecting the craft of automotive sculpture, and are finely attuned to what types of shapes and conventions send a given message. Now, the researchers want to move in and figure out how to express what the artists already know with a scientific approach called morphometrics. The practice of shape analysis, usually used for more classical studies like medicine and biology, is useful in improving healthcare equipment or possibly aiding in the identification of unknown remains.
People inherently look for faces and patterns, and the front of a car lends itself to being anthropomorphized. Professor Dennis Slice and his colleagues at Vienna University think the information gleaned from looking deeper into what the "faces" of various cars say – meek or mild appearance, for instance – and how to zero in on just what features will send the automaker's intended message. Of course, design teams already seem to be doing a good job of telling a story with design, with or without the newfangled algorithm. Possibly harder to nail down is the answer to the question of whether styling makes drivers behave differently, the next topic Slice and his team are tackling. Hat tip to Matt.