A Dutch designer has created a new book cover that will only open when it detects a neutral facial expression from the user, according to a Slate article by Ariel Bogle. Dubbed “The Cover That Judges You”, the prototype was made by Thijs Biersteker for the Art Directors Club Netherlands.
Obviously this is not a practical application of facial recognition technology, but it’s making a heck of a statement. Echoing other recent encroachments of biometric technology into everyday life, such as the video monitors in a Spanish comedy club that track audience laughter, the project has provoked some unease from certain critics. Bogle refers to “something of an arms race” in technologies that track emotions, and expresses discomfort with the idea that facial recognition software able to detect microexpressions could make retailers “better at sensing my disgust or desire than any FaceTime buddy.” And indeed, that kind of a future is exactly what some companies are aiming for.
But this reaction also misses the full message of Biersteker’s piece. It’s very reasonable to be skeptical about some of the more dangerous applications of facial recognition technology, but one should also bear in mind the potential benefits. There’s an awful lot going on behind that book cover, and it’s best approached with a cool head.