Making Studio, Fall 2014
Created with much patience and guidance from Becky Stern


Asked to create an innovative arduino-based project, Marianna Mezhibovskaya wanted to use the act of smiling as a trigger, and also incorporate chocolate! At first she was interested in using EKG muscle sensors but worried about how genuine the experience of smiling would feel if asked to put sensors or a mask onto your face. With the help of her professor Becky Stern, she was directed to look at computer vision software and discovered the Auto Smiley - an +openFrameworks project created by Theo Watson, that uses computer vision smile recognition. Once a smile is detected through your webcam, the app sends the infamous :) symbol to any text based application you have open on your computer screen.

Once this application was up and grinning on her computer, Marianna bought a motion-activated candy machine to hack apart. She removed all of the electronics, keeping only the candy jar and lid, base with motor and spiral ramp mechanisms. Next she wrote and tested an Arduino code that would trigger the motor to turn for several seconds when recognizing a smile. These tests resulted in several toothaches amongst Marianna and her friends.

After her candy machine was smile-reactive, she began to wonder what the context would be for this kind of machine. At first, Marianna imagined it as an old-fashioned gum ball machine placed at the entrance to the SVA Products of Design studio. She hoped it would serve as a way to reward happy people and give a sweet incentive for unhappy people to smile, therefore making them a little happy! After sketching several different designs, Marianna was really curious about what to place on or around the candy machine to elicit laughter. After struggling to avoid being prescriptive about humor,  Marianna realized that the best way to get someone to smile is to have someone else cause them to. This is when she began to reimagine the design of the candy machine as an interactive experience.

 A new context for this machine might be on a table in offices, diners, and studios, where two people can sit across from another, make each other smile, and share their surprise thereby causing an endless stream of candy to both!

For more pictures and detailed instructions visit the Instructables link below: