University of Tokyo researchers took a typical mirror and changed it so that it presented the viewer with a webcam image of their face. They then used software to gently tweak the image so that the face appears to smile or frown. Unsuspecting testers who sat in front of the mirror while performing a task reported later that they felt happier when the image was smiling, and less happy when it wasn’t. The researchers then asked other testers to try on a scarf while looking in the mirror. Those who saw themselves “smiling” were more likely to say they liked the scarf.
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What’s the Big Idea?
Not surprisingly, installing this technology in clothing store fitting rooms could improve sales, particularly if the image changes are so slight — “turning the corners of the mouth up or down and changing the area around the eyes” — that the customer doesn’t notice them. However, Chris Creed of the University of Birmingham says that the transition from lab to shop would be much more difficult because of the variety of people and expressions. Then there’s that whole ethics thing: “You could argue that if it makes people happy what harm is it doing? On the other hand, I can imagine that many people may feel manipulated, uncomfortable and cheated if they found out.”