Happylife

In 1983 George Lucas used facial recognition in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. C3PO and R2D2 need to pass the Forbidding Gate and have to undergo a facial scan in order to enter Jabba the Hutts palace.

In 1983 was it more fiction than science but today is it reality. CCTV and other security systems use it for crime prevention making more and more efficient use of the technology.

In 2010 facial recognition peaked out at a joint project, called Happylife.
Happylife is the implementation of  the smart home, a concept that has been around for quite a while. An intelligent home that can read and fulfill your desires via facial recognition technology. The project between EPSRC, Royal College of Art and NESTA was introduced at the Impact exhibition in London, a unique collaboration between science and design that explores the importance of engineering and physical sciences in all aspects of our lives.

The science of the project is described by Zwiggelaar and Bashar Al-Rjoub from the Computer Science Department of Aberystwyth University:

Real-time dynamic passive profiling technique will be based on the modeling of facial expressions, eye movement and pupil changes in both the visual and thermal domains and link these to malicious intent and physiological processes (such as blood flow, eye movement patterns, and pupil dilation). To facilitate this process, one of the initial aspects of the project will be the collection, analysis and development of the dataset used to model the baseline of facial imagery behaviour of the general population against which physiological behaviours in people with malicious intent would need to be detected. Both the baseline and the dynamic profiling will be based on the response to a series of questions. The developed techniques will be evaluated in operational trails at border control points. The multi-modal facial analysis will provide additional information to the current profiling and the developed techniques will have a wider remit into other domains.

A visual display, linked to the thermal image camera, shows for each family member one individual rotary dial and one RGB LED display effectively acting like emotional barometers. These show current state and predicted state, the predicted state being based on years of accumulated statistical data.

In collaboration with Dr Richard M. Turley a narrative based prospect has been written.

We installed Happylife. Not much happened at first: an occasional rotation, a barely appreciable change in the intensity of light. But we felt it watching us, and knew that some kind of probing analysis had begun. After only a few months, we found ourselves anticipating the position of the dials. The individual displays rarely contradicted our expectations, but when they did it encouraged us to look inwardly at ourselves.
It was that time of the year. All of the Happylife prediction dials had spun anti-clockwise, like barometers reacting to an incoming storm. we lost David 4 years ago and the system was anticipating our coming sadness. We found this strangely comforting.
We were all sitting in the lounge, like any evening. Sandra and I were watching some nondescript documentary and the kids were playing with their lego. The moment stole up on us. Paul was first to notice the unusual glow coming from Happylife. It continued to brighten – a gradual, barely conspicuous build up of intensity until we had to look away.
The morning Paul had to go, Sandra’s dial was barely registering. I’d seen it that pale only once; then for obvious reasons it stayed that way for weeks. I tried to comfort her, saying it wasn’t as if he’d be away for ever. She turned to me with her face blank and puffy and then ran out of the room.
I arrived home from the meeting, pushed off my shoes and glanced up at the Happylife display. Sandra’s dial had rotated 2 clicks further than I’d ever seen it. The orb was pulsing wildly. She’d seemed fine when I left.

But as shown there are always two sides of the coin, one may be contributing while the other may be harmful. If the smart home is an enrichment or just another step towards Skynet (Terminator) cannot be said so far. However the smart home is now ready for the first real family and from there on we will see.

References:

http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/cs/research/vgv/

http://www.auger-loizeau.com/index.php?id=23

http://www.nextnature.net/2010/07/happylife/#more-9061

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1133

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