Smile, Please

Physical Computing,  Installation

Role ︎ Level Design, Unity Scripting
Tool ︎Arduino, Muscle Sensor, TENS Units
Collaborator ︎ Winnie Yoe

Smile, Please, is an interactive installation created in response to societal coercion of emotions and the prevalence of emotion AI.

According to UK innovation foundation Nesta, the prevalence of AI in emotion prediction is one of the predicted trends in innovation in 2018. Companies such as Affectiva and Beyond Verbal already own huge deposit of emotion database around the world. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal proves the danger and impact of “psychological warfares” in tech. In the near future, as our emotion becomes an asset that is trackable and predictable, would it also be controllable and “hackable”?

Against this background, we created Smile, Please, a system that detects smiles and uses a thermal printer to tell users if their smile is “good” enough or not while also using electrodes to shock the person if their smile was not “good” enough. In addition, users will be given The Manual of Smile Etiquette after each experience. This project combines concepts from Physical Computing and Design for Discomfort (e.g. creating and closing the magic circle, use of visceral effect and taboo).

Through an extreme approach, dark humor and by creating visceral discomfort, with mechanism referencing to Palvov’s classical conditioning and the Milgram experiment, we hoped to shock our audience in thinking about the implications and ownership of our emotions in the current societal and technological landscape.



The dystopian scenario is set in the future 5 years from now, one’s socioeconomic status, employability and relationship status depends on the display of positive emotions, emotion has also become a personal data accessible and trackable, thus facilitating a systematic procedure in determining if users can be accepted to “the preferred society”.

In light of this, and to help users guarantee entry to “the preferred society”, Smile, Please, along with The Manual of Smile Etiquette, are developed for training purposes. A similar machine is stationed at each border control station to formally determine users’ status. This machine can also be purchased by corporations to assess their employees and spouses to assess their partners. 


We dressed us scientist with lab coats. In establishing a dystopian and futuristic narrative, we used physical and digital interface, graphic design,  video installation as well as theatrical performance.

The user journey starts with our explanation of our smile evaluation and training system. After informing about the possibility of electric shock if failed,  user  that are willing to experience will be asked to sign a waiver. We  proceed to preparation stage which involves sanitation as well as attaching senosors and electrodes. The user then can press the push button to start and they also have a stop switch in case of emergency