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Laughing Matter

There are a lot of interesting applications for facial recognition software, but I have to say one of the most interesting (if not necessarily the most useful) is one that a Barcelona comedy club was experimenting with a few months back.

Rather than charge a flat ticket price, the club decided that patrons should pay based on the value they were getting out of a show. For a comedy club, that means charging for the laugh. So Teatreneu attached tablets with an app called Pay per Laugh (from Glassdoor) installed. Every time someone in the audience laughed, they were charged 0.30 Euros. (Patrons were protected on the upside, the ticket charge was capped at 24 Euros. Every laugh over and above 80 was free. As it turned out, the average was 49 laughs per show.)

“Pay per Laugh (PPL) is an application that, once installed on an iPad, is able to detect laughing, crying or any facial expression previously programmed. The software was developed with a simple FaceTracker, a facial expressions detector that counts, lists and generates statistics of the amount of laughs detected. Each time it recognizes a smile the iPad takes a picture and sends it to the PPL server, creating and monitoring the statistics.”

“Pay per Laugh has several functionalities. Depending on the programming parameters of the facial detector, it is capable of recognizing different kinds of emotional states. As long as those are a physical expression (laugh-happiness, cry-sadness, surprise face-fascination…)!” (Source: LBBOnline)

I would think that the novelty would wear off pretty soon, and that at least some members of the audience would be focusing so much on keeping a poker face that they’d stop paying any attention to the show. And I can’t help thinking about ‘what next’? Maybe we’ll pay less for our cable if we look bored when we’re watching a show. Maybe PPL can be combined with GoPro, and we can pay for a vacation based on how much we’re enjoying it. And maybe, since we just had Groundhog Day, they can forget looking at Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow, and figure out from the look on his face whether we’re going to have an early spring. (Not that, in upstate New York, we ever get an early spring.)

Anyway, it was a novel application of facial recognition technology, that’s for sure.


Source for some of the background info: BBC.