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Office Uses Smiling Face Recognition at Entrance

Office Uses Smiling Face Recognition at Entrance
29 June 2021 | Updated 06 August 2021

Canon Information Technology's Beijing office uses a workspace management system that only allows smiling employees to enter the premises and book rooms.

According to financial newspaper Nikkei Asia, the smile recognition algorithm is "intended to bring more cheerfulness to office in the post-pandemic era."

A spokesperson for Canon China told Nikkei: "We have been wanting to encourage employees to create a positive atmosphere by utilizing this system with the smile detection setting 'on'. Mostly, people are just too shy to smile, but once they get used to smiles in the office, they just keep their smiles without the system which created [a] positive and lively atmosphere.”

The smart IT solution, named "Jiachuang Space", also manages attendance and temperature measurement.


Forced Smiles


The motivation for Canon's use of this particular tech seems to be relating to wellbeing and the positive effect of smiling – but is there any evidence for this?

Research from the University of South Australia, published in Experimental Psychology, evaluated the impact of a covert smile on perception of face and body expressions. In both scenarios, a smile was induced by participants holding a pen between their teeth, forcing their facial muscles to replicate the movement of a smile.

The research found that facial muscular activity not only alters the recognition of facial expressions but also body expressions, with both generating more positive emotions.

Lead researcher and human and artificial cognition expert with UniSA’s Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning, Dr Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos says the finding has important insights for mental health:

“When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way."

“In our research, we found that when you forcefully practise smiling, it stimulates the amygdala – the emotional centre of the brain – which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state. For mental health, this has interesting implications. If we can trick the brain into perceiving stimuli as ‘happy’, then we can potentially use this mechanism to help boost mental health"

A 2019 study from the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology may challenge this notion. The report, named "When are fakers also drinkers? A self-control view of emotional labour and alcohol consumption among U.S. service workers" proposes that emotional labour such as forced smiles is linked to increased alcohol consumption for American employees in public-facing roles.


Dystopian Surveillance?


According to James Vincent from The Verge, smile recognition is simply one in a long list of "dystopian workplace surveillance" tools.

He wrote: "AI-enabled smile recognition cameras are in many ways the least dangerous types of surveillance technology. They have the benefit of being obvious. Other systems of control are much more subtle, and probably coming to an office near you sometime soon."

What Vincent may be referring to here is employers' use of surveillance software, known as bossware, with off-the-shelf products able to track keystrokes, mouse movements and even take random screenshots throughout the day.

Companies such as PwC have faced criticism for developing facial recognition tools to track employees, monitoring employees’ absences from their computer screens, including bathroom breaks.

Picture: a photograph of a person smiling in front of a facial recognition camera. Image Credit: Canon Information Technology

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 29 June 2021


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