I just got a press release about an exciting new technology called "SmileCheck". It's supposed to give a digital camera the ability to look for "facial features associated with smiles" in the live viewfinder view. So, if you've got your camera in SmileCheck Mode, you press the button when everyone's in frame, but the shutter will only actually click when it reckons everybody in the frame is smiling.

This doesn't sound like the most useful camera gimmick ever, but it's more useful than "sepia mode". If it works.

The PR company helpfully included "before" and "after" pictures, to show what a sterling job SmileCheck could do.

Here's the kind of picture that SmileCheck will, allegedly, prevent you from taking:

SmileCheck, before

And here's what it'll let you take instead:

SmileCheck, after

The more I think about this PR company's choice of images, the more my facial expression comes to resemble that of the kid on the left.

UPDATE: They've now produced a second press release, showing off the same technology but this time coupled with the camera's self-timer, and calling it "FaceTime". So you activate that mode on your camera, and it waits the usual several seconds (so you can get yourself into the frame) and then starts looking for smiles, and takes the picture when it thinks it sees them. The demo pictures are less hilarious this time.

7 Responses to “GrimaceCheck!”

  1. magetoo Says:

    Talk about a solution looking for a problem.

    It mustn't have occurred to them that the human visual system is absurdly good at judging the facial expressions of others of the same species. How would you even entertain the idea that it's something you should try to duplicate in a cheap consumer device, which is going to be operated by a human anyway? Sheesh.

  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Facial recognition software can be pretty clever, and you need considerable shutter-button accuracy to grab smiles in a picture of five people who aren't posing, especially if you're using a consumer camera with a 0.2-second shutter delay. A product that did what this one claims to do could be useful for happy snappers.

    But I'm skeptical about the actual capabilities of this technology. It may work better than PORNsweeper did, but that ain't sayin' much. And the press release doesn't actually explicitly say that any camera companies are actually going to license SmileCheck.

    And, again, just look at that picture.

    If this is the best these guys can come up with in their rigged demo picture, one can only wonder about the quality of their actual code...

  3. magetoo Says:

    I don't think approach is going to help in the "five people not posing" scenario either, if all it does is prevent you from taking pictures at all. If people won't cooperate, you just walk away with nothing instead of three-out-of-five.

    It just might work if it runs on your desktop computer though. Throw in enough memory in the camera to let it store lots, and let a fast desktop CPU process all the hundreds/zillions of frames in "batch mode" when you move the pictures off the memory card. You could even try to recognize separate scenes (timestamps, major visual features) and rank individual pictures against its neighbours.

    You might even end up taking Alice, from t=0, Bob from t+2, and combine them in one almost-real shot... Hmm. Hang on, I'm off to patent this... :-)

  4. sockatume Says:

    I've got a point-and-shoot with a "fast as it can take them" continuous shooting mode, which I reckon solves the same problem in a less rigid way, although to get more than about two shots per second it has to step down to a modest sane 2MP resolution. You're limited to three shots per burst if the flash is on, mind you (presumably related to this "if the flash starts to release smoke..." part of the manufacturer FAQ).

  5. Jaymis Says:

    They were so close! The useful version of this would be a system which waits until everyone's eyes are open. Probably easier to detect than smiles, too.

  6. Good Experience Blog Says:

    Problems with finding smiles in photos

    Here's another example of technology trying to solve a problem that would be handled with a few minutes of bit literacy training. For those camera buyers who haven't read the "Bit Literacy" section on managing photos (take many many, and...

  7. RichVR Says:

    In the update pictures the lady holding the baby looks worried about something, even with the smile. I think the kid dropped a load.

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