Smile TV – It works only when you smile

Recent Royal College of Art (RCA) design graduate David Hedberg’s Smile TV is more than a loving homage to the good old ‘campfire inside the living room.’ Made from an open frame CRT monitor and equipped with a computer vision system, the unsuspecting television set turns the medium’s engagement pattern on its head: instead of making you smile at on-screen silliness, you have to “smile to watch.” Only when you do – and for as long as you do – will Smile TV reveal its otherwise scrambled broadcast. “This project grew out from experimenting with facial recognition and image manipulation,” Hedberg explains over email.

I thought about content and how we, in the old days, used to get it delivered into our household via antennas installed on our individual rooftops. When the reception failed, somebody had to climb up there and fix the antenna to pick up the signal again. Today, with information widely accessible, often at the palm of our hands, the question is no longer if we can receive, but whether we are receptive. In the economy of ‘liking’ things we have very much taken on the role of antennas ourselves – transmitting content on to each other.

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