Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a computer-controlled mirror designed to transform a sad face into a happy one. They say the mirror can trigger positive feelings in people who may previously have been in a bad mood, sImply by manipulating their appearance.
"The computer changes your expression and displays your face here to give it slightly more of a smile - or a bit more of a grimace - than usual. If users see a happier face and perceive themselves to be smiling, then we've found it actually puts them in a better mood," said Hirose, one of Japan's top virtual reality experts.
A camera attached to the device captures and tracks a user's face, displaying the image on a mirror-like screen. It's not a true reflection, but a live, computer generated
image, that can be manipulated via a software programme to transform expressions in real time.
It's called an 'incediary reflection' mirror. Hirose says it was developed in an attempt to control emotions artificially in a field he says is breaking new ground.
"Until now virtual reality has just dealt with physical things, reproducing the physical world. But there's also a mental world, right? So if we can analyse feelings like sadness or happiness properly, then we can also add an emotional dimension to virtual reality. If we can do that, we'll be entering a whole new phase for research," Hirose said.
But for now researchers are looking for practical ways to deploy the face-shifting technology.
"We've tried applying this to video conferencing, and gave grins to each of the participants. What we found was that the productivity of the meeting actually skyrocketed," Hirose said.
The researchers say the system could also be used in the future to help people with depression or to influence consumer behaviour in store changing rooms where people are trying on clothes.