Smile TV: If You Don't Smile, the TV Doesn't Work
Article by George Norman
On 11 Jul 2014
If you see something funny on TV, you smile. That’s the standard way things work: you respond to what you see.

Artist David Hedberg introduces Smile TV and turns this standard concept on its head. Smile TV does not show you anything unless you smile. You have to smile, otherwise the TV won’t work.


When you think about the TV viewing experience, the following image comes to mind; someone in front of the TV, watching a funny show and smiling. That’s the standard way things work: you smile at the TV because you’re watching something entertaining.

Artist David Hedberg doesn’t see it that way. Hedberg’s Smile TV works the other way around: the TV works only if you smile; if you don’t smile, you don’t get to see anything.

Hidden in the base of the TV unit there’s a camera that monitors the TV viewer; facial recognition software analyzes the viewer’s face; if the viewer smiles, Smile TV starts to show a series of silly, light-hearted clips.

Hedberg brings up an interesting point: we are less receptive than we used to be. Back in the day we did not have cable and smart TVs that are connected to the internet. TVs relied on antennas to receive and display content. Poor reception was part of the TV watching experience – and it was annoying as hell. Nowadays, poor reception is no longer a problem. Nowadays, we have easy access to all sorts of content. If in the past we had to put up with reception problems, nowadays we have to put up with receptivity problems. With so much content readily available, we’re less receptive.

“Bad reception used to be associated with the poor technical performance of an antenna,” sayd Hedberg. “Just a decade ago it was much clearer who dictates the information which we absorb. Now, with content widely accessible the question is no longer if we can receive but if we are receptive. By expressing that we like something, we have very much become antennas ourselves - transmitting the content on to somebody else. This TV installation elaborates with facial recognition technology and a last-decade TV set to re-consider viewers engagement and how content is accessed. It only works if we smile.”

Tags: TV, Smile TV, smile, David Hedberg, artist
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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