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HappinessCounter refrigerator only opens when you smile

Nadine Bells
Shine On
October 12, 2012

Craving a midnight snack from the fridge? A new digital appliance requires that you crack a smile for access to that late-night treat.

A group of researchers from the University of Tokyo Sony Computer Science Laboratories developed the HappinessCounter -- a device that uses smile recognition to initiate a specific action, in this case, a refrigerator door opening.

"We feel that the HappinessCounter will naturally encourage the act of smiling in the multitude of daily frustrations, thus enhancing a positive mood and the communication of people," a spokesperson says in a product video.

Also see: B.C. lawyer Adam Campbell completes marathon in a suit, breaks world record

Earlier studies have proven that smiling does, indeed, boost personal happiness — even when the smile is a forced one. "Grin and bear it" works!

To test their HappinessCounter invention, the researchers attached the device, comprised of a light sensor partially covering the LCD screen of a smile-detecting Sony CyberShot camera, to the front of a refrigerator. In order to open the door, test participants were required to smile at it.

"Over a period of ten days, the researchers noticed that the participants shifted from a fake smile to a genuine smile in order to access food within the refrigerator," reports Digital Trends. How they measure whether a smile is genuine is another thing all together.

Watch the mood-boosting device in action below:

Note that non-smilers can still open the refrigerator's door, but are required to pull harder to open it.

"This system is mainly designed for people living in alone who have difficulty to realize when they are in low spirits and/or to make themselves smile. Our HappinessCounter combines visual smile face recognition, user feedback, and network communication. We installed this system in a home with a single householder, and the system had positive effects on improving the user's mental status," the researchers write.

Also see: Kissing your dog can cause gum disease: study

As for other applications for the technology, the researchers suggest mounting the HappinessCounter outside of boardrooms, requiring meeting attendees to enter the room with a smile.

"Increasing the number of smiles in the workplace will enhance the atmosphere for everyone and they might be able to produce some nice ideas," a spokesperson says in the video.

The HappinessCounter won a 2012 Good Design Award for Digital Appliances.

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