Saturday, November 7, 2009

How Long Before the Virtual Smile Scanner?

I read an interesting piece in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper today about a Japanese train company that is scanning employee faces to see if they smile properly. The smile scanning software is used to make sure that employees are greeting passengers with enough enthusiasm.

Every morning, employees smile into a camera attached to a computer. The smile is analyzed in terms of factors like eye movement, lip curvature, and facial wrinkles. A smile is rated on a scale of 0 (suicidal) to 100 (delirious).

Advice is given to those who need it - "You are too serious," "Lift up your mouth corners". An ideal smile will be printed out for the employee to carry around as reference during the day.

They do say that when a person smiles on a telephone call, you can hear the smile in the person's voice. It certainly doesn't do any harm to smile when you're writing an email or an instant message. A smile does have enormous communicative power. But do I want the webcam sitting on my computer screen to scan my face each morning and print out an ideal smile for me? Nah!

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