Happiness Counter

New interface likely to bring smile and happiness to home electronics users

It has become known that our facial expressions not only mirror our feelings, but also affect them. “A smile passing over the face stimulates positive feelings.” This smile-makes-happiness argument is known as the “facial feedback theory.” Happiness Counter stemmed from Sony Computer Science Lab’s study of how using electronic appliances with a smile might generate and bolster happy feelings in users. As part of the project, the laboratory tested a refrigerator whose door opens more smoothly than otherwise if the person keeps smiling while opening it. An interactive design of this kind could apply other objects, such as a mirror, an entry door, or a smartphone.

The Happiness Counter interface includes feedback through sounds and smile icons, as well as the option of sharing the user’s smiling face with family and friends on the Web. This could ensure a kind of security system to help keep people in touch with elderly parents living alone, or with distant family members. In a sense, Happiness Counter is the realization of a “design of inconvenience.” In the past, new concepts employed cutting-edge technology in a blind drive to reduce human labor – that is, increase efficiency. Sony’s new interface almost exclusively stresses the long-term benefits to users, which entails some sort of inconvenience.

* Happiness Counter won the Good Design Award and the GOOD DESIGN Best 100 in 2012.