Image Credit: Screenshots from video by Brian Moore
We’ve all been there: a friend texts you a video, and it’s funny, but not that funny. Not rolling-on-the-floor-crying funny. So, you settle for a half-smile and an abrupt exhale through the nose, and text them, “lol.”“LOL” stands for “laugh out loud.” But did you really? Enter the LOL Verifier. It’s a device that, according to its creator Brian Moore, only lets you type and send “LOL” if it confirms you laughed out loud.
“I remember when LOL meant ‘laugh out loud,’” Moore said in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday. “You know, a real chortle. And now it means nothing. Dulled down to the mere acknowledgement of a message.” Moore, an artist who likes to play with technology to make a point, told Motherboard in a phone call that he had long been thinking about the plight of LOL. “The deflation of the LOL, as it were, was a realization when I started talking with friends. LOL does not say anything anymore. It might as well be punctuation,” he said. “I wanted to figure out if there was a way to make something that would actually verify it,” he continued. “Finally I figured out a way to make it into a physical piece of hardware that sits between your keyboard and your computer and sniffs for an LOL.”The physical device, a small black box with “LOL” printed on the front, is connected to the user’s computer by a cable. It has a big light in the center. When a user types “LOL,” the device listens for some form of laughter. If it detects passable laughter, the light turns green, and the device’s verification message—“✅LOL verified at [time]”—is inserted into the message. If no laughter is detected, the light turns red, and the typed “LOL” is switched out for another message, like “that’s funny” or “ha.”
The software inside is in part an AI model that listens for laughter. “The way that this specific model works is that you need to train it on what a laugh sounds like—but it also has to know what ‘not a laugh’ sounds like,” Moore said. “I recorded hundreds of [laughter samples]. It was definitely upwards of half an hour just laughing into my computer like an insane person.”“The laughs are varied from chuckles to just me going, ‘Ha,’ really loudly,” he continued. “But then training it on not-laughs, like keyboard sounds and silence. Background noise, TV noise, music. That stuff does not count.”And yes, he actually uses it. “It’s been really fun to use because I’ve realized just how many times I type out LOL and don't mean anything,” Moore said. “So it's really keeping me incredibly honest. I’m at least checking the box for my New Year's resolution of being a more honest person.” Moore said he uses the Verifier the most in personal text messages or on platforms like Discord, and that he thinks his friends feel honored to see the LOL verification after his messages. “The person that receives it knows that I have truly laughed out loud, just like our internet forefathers intended it to be,” he said. “I think they're happy to see that. They see less LOLs from me now—I send more things like ‘that’s funny’ their way, which is maybe insulting on the other hand.”For now, the LOL Verifier is just a fun project to see how people will react, but if it rapidly gains popularity, Moore said he would probably expand access to it. “I likely will end up releasing the code if anybody wants to build one themselves. Again, they're going to have to laugh into their computer for like 20 minutes straight. So that's a fair warning right there.”“It's fun to make stuff like this because I think these are the things that we all think about but don't actually realize that we all are thinking about,” Moore said. “And hopefully the value only increases with time, because it's a sacred acronym that we need to make sure we can preserve for years to come.”