Seeing the World as Smiles

There’s a video that Brian Roemmele retweeted a few years back that I fell in love with:

The version of the app paints smiles on people’s faces as they pass. All of a sudden everyone looks much happier and friendly. Sure, this version of the augmented reality does not look realistic and is kitschy but it offers up a great thought experiment.

We all have an internal facial recognition system. That system interprets people’s faces and their mood across several dimensions, including friendliness on one end and belligerence on the other. Do I need to fight you?

When I’m thinking about something, my kids will interpret my facial expression as being angry. They ask me and I tell them I’m not. It’s then that I have to make a conscious effort to not look so angry. I self diagnose as having what some might refer to as “Resting Bitch Face”.

In terms of our own happiness and outlook, we lie on some personality spectrum of caring about what others feel towards us. The Big Five personality would see this as “agreeableness”. This can lead us to concluding that if others are more friendly towards us, then we might end up being happier.

How much we slept, what we ate for lunch, and other factors can affect how we think others perceive us. Exogenous factors like MDMA or SSRIs might also bias this system. However, what if there were a technological solution?

What if we have our own rose colored glasses that could literally be AR glasses, but more easily, filters on others through FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc. These filters would subtly add smiles and soften furrowed brows. We’d see people as friendly.

Taking this to the extreme, it could mean we’d come out happier from Zoom marathons and that we’d see people more as they want to be seen. It could also mean that reality would seem a less friendly place and “sheesh, you’re a lot angrier in person!”.

For going truly glasses-free and seeing people as friendlier, we might need to wait for our Neuralink implants.



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Leor Grebler

Leor Grebler

Independent daily thoughts on all things future, voice technologies and AI. More at