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Virtual Hairstyle has grand ambitions but falls a little flat in the style department. Try out a virtual makeover with our Australian review.
Virtual Hairstyle really undersells itself with its name. In addition to 1,500 hairstyles, it also offers 180 beards, 150 glasses, 200 accessories... and more. After reading the box, you could reasonably expect to transform yourself into a brand new person, all at the click of a mouse button.
Virtual Hairstyle works by you importing a digital photo of yourself and then selecting various hairstyles, accessories etc. from its library to virtually "try on". It's the same concept that hair magazines have been using for years where you cut out a faceless hairstyle and stick it over a photo of yourself to see what it looks like. The advantage of this electronic version is that you can resize the hairstyle and your photo so that they actually fit each other. Well, kind of. Unfortunately, the graphics aren't particularly realistic and the tools to modify them are very basic, so the results aren't exactly covergirl material.
We quickly learnt that in the wrong hands, Virtual Hairstyle is a dangerous thing. Visions of ZDNet female staff members being transformed into Gwyneth's long lost sister were promptly dashed as other colleagues took the controls and overlaid Michael Jackson's black bob, Tina Turner's lips and Jerry Lewis' glasses. Interesting, but not exactly what we'd hoped for.
From the large number of mullets, flat tops and Farrah Fawcetts in the hairstyles library, it's not surprising to discover that the software was sourced in Germany. We're guessing probably from pre-1989 East Germany, judging by many of the cuts on offer. While there are some modern styles, the majority are either outdated or just plain weird - think lavender curls, blue buns and green bobs.
With large icons and easy to interpret graphics, the program is fairly intuitive to use. To get a decent result, we'd recommend you take a photo of yourself specifically for use in the program. It needs to be taken directly face-on, with your hair slicked back from your face.
At times we found that the program ran pretty slowly on a medium-grunt PC, especially when using the filter to search for specific features such as "hairstyles / female / curly". Even with just three filters, my machine was really struggling and the search took over 20 seconds.
New hairstyles are a tricky thing. Unlike other fashion items, you can't try them on and put them back on the rack when you discover how hideous they look on you. It's this problem that the creators of Virtual Hairstyle have tried to solve but unfortunately they're hampered by the lack of really modern hairstyles and generally unrealistic graphics.
We're also a little confused as to the point of trying on the accessories like earrings, necklaces etc. Why try on the jewellery of your dreams onscreen, when you may never be able to find the equivalent in real life? Even for a dedicated shopper, that seems more like frustration than fun.
While we can't imagine anyone getting a radical new haircut based on its results, Virtual Hairstyle is an entertaining enough way to have some fun messing around with photos of family and friends. At AU$29.95, it's possibly worth it just to see how your granny would look with a green mullet.