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This Emotion Detector Wants to Cheer Up Your Web Browsing Experience

Here's a Chrome Extension that wants to make sure your internet experience is good vibes-only.
Image courtesy the artist

When news broke two years ago that Facebook had been manipulating moods and emotions with a news feed algorithm, people were understandably concerned. But this “emotional contagion” experiment ended up inspiring media artist Alexander Taylor to create Blissify, a “satirical pseudo-startup” exploring filter bubbles, “solutionism," and the quantified self.

After running a quick calibration to get to know a user’s “neutral browsing expression” (NBE), Blissify hijacks the user’s webcam to monitor their facial expressions in real-time as they browse the internet. When rapid increases in negative emotions are detected, Blissify hides the page, then adds it to the user’s personal block list.


“[Facebook’s experiment] got me thinking about how little I actually take notice of the link between my mood and the content I'm passively consuming, and the extent to which this is potentially already being exploited,” Taylor tells The Creators Project. “This linked to a past research project I did into the marketing material provided by startups specializing in 'big data,' some of which directly touched on the notion of monetizing the emotional states of your customers.”

Beyond exploring filter bubbles, Taylor says that Blissify is meant to be a bit of a comment on echo chamber. In fact, he likes to call the app an “echo chamber accelerator.”

“But even within our own chosen corners of the internet it's common to come across a specific type of content designed to draw strong negative reactions from the viewer and generate activity through those means,” he says. “Blissify is meant to be a comment on this, too.”

Taylor wrote the backend entirely in Javascript. He explains that the most important component to Blissify is clmtrackr, open-source application used for emotion detection, especially expressions signalling anger and disgust. “I found 'sadness' itself was triggered much less frequently than these two during testing,” Taylor notes.

There weren’t any direct app or extension influences on Blissify, but Taylor says he did spend a lot of time plumbing the depths of the Chrome web store’s Productivity category to get an idea of “how to present it as a 'realistic' self-help app.”


Click here to check out more of Alexander Taylor’s work.


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