As is often the case in art, my project to capture the things that make us smile turned out to have been implemented a year before by Brooklyn artist Kyle McDonald. The embarrassing part of this is that I – unknowingly – used Kyle’s library to make my project.
In any case, this initial attempt/failure emboldened me to try something more nuanced with faces. I wanted to consider a continuum of expressions as opposed to a binary smile-on smile-off.
Face Seismograph is a tool for recording and graphing states of excitement over time. It was written in OpenFrameworks using Kyle McDonald’s ofxFaceTracker addon.
The seismograph measures excitement by tracking the degree to which one smiles or moves their eyebrows from a resting state.
One limitation of this approach is that in practice, internal states of excitement or arousal may not have corresponding facial expressions.
I staged a casual conversation between myself and a friend. While we chatted about life, two instances of Face Seismograph approximated and recorded the intensity of our excitement. Viewing the history of our facial expressions, I began to notice surprising rhythms of expression.
To present this conversation, I play each recording on a separate iMac. The two recordings are synchronized via OSC. A viewer can scrub through the video on both computers simultaneously.
In a future iteration of this project, I’d like to highlight the comparison of excitement signatures with greater clarity. Also, I need to label my axes.