Artificial Smile

A Project by Andreas Schmelas & Stefan Stubbe


The tools we use change the way we perceive and understand ourselves. Since the 1950s the proliferation of the amateur camera has allowed for the mass documentation of our individual self and our portrait. The staging of the image and how we 'look' or represent our selves and our body changed as we learnt in part to 'play-to-the-camera'. Editing softwares such as Photoshop lead to further changes and to the 'touching' up of our image in the pursuit of 'perfection'. While contemporary digital image processing techniques such as the auto-retouch function enables digital cameras to alter your image in real-time.

The camera 'Artificial Smile' plays with the notion of perfection and auto-retouch. Created as a picture apparatus, it shows only smiling people's picture to be taken, irrespective of their former emotional state. To achieve this camera takes a picture but overlays it with a smiling mouth drawn from a pre-existing pool of pictures with smiling faces. To generate a maximum level of exaggeration the replaced smiling mouth impression is matched as realistically as possible to that of the initial portrait taken.

Mit der zunehmenden Digitalisierung vieler Lebensbereiche verändert sich auch die Art und Weise unserer Selbstwahrnehmung. Eines diesem Wandel unterworfenen Medium ist die Fotografie. Lag die Veränderung zunächst nur im unterschiedlichen Speichermedium, folgte innerhalb der letzten Jahre vermehrt eine direkte und teils vollautomatische Bildbearbeitung innerhalb des digitalen Apparates. Zum Beispiel werden mit Hilfe dieser Bildbearbeitungsprozesse automatisch Hautunreinheiten und Falten retuschiert, auf Gesichter fokussiert ...   das Bild wird mehr und mehr dem Medialen Schönheitsideal angeglichen.

Die Kamera 'Artificial Smile' ist ein Fotoapparat, dessen aufgenommene Bilder grundsätzlich nur lächelnde Menschen
zeigen – unabhängig deren ursprünglichen Gemütszustandes. Die Kamera nutzt dazu, eine zuvor angelegte Bilddatenbank mit lächelnden Gesichtern, die Münder der fotografierten Personen werden ersetzen.
Im Gegensatz zu kommerziell erhältlichen Kameras, wird zur Erzeugung eines maximalen Grades an Übertreibung, bewusst darauf verzichtet einer realistischen Darstellung zu entsprechen.


Basic Procedure

  1. use 'Artificial Smile' to capture one or more persons frontally.

  2. the apperatur – build up on a mobile device – sends the data to a nearby computer via mobile connection or wireless lan.

  3. the computer runs a custom made computer vision programm, analysing the image and searching for human body parts extracting facial features.

  4. after detecting one or more face(s), the programm overlays the image with a smiling mouth drawn from a pre-existing image pool of smiling faces.

  5. to generate a correct looking image several steps of image transformations like scaling, rotation, wrapping and re-lighting are computed.

  6. after the programm is finished, the image gets transfered back to the camera aperatus, there the image gets display on the built-in screen.

  7. done! approximate time of process – 6 seconds.


The apparatus is currently in a prototypal but fully functional stage. This device is made only for artistic purposes, there are no plans to integrate these functions in any kind of commercial application. The creators of 'Artificial Smile' explicitly won't see such kind of functions available in the consumer market!

Source Code

The project source code is released under the GNU GPL v3, source files can be downloaded from the Artificial Smile google code project page.

additional libraries where used:

ASM Library
Open CV



download press packet _ 14,397.967 kb

curriculum vitae Andreas Schmelas, Stefan Stubbe

Artificial Smile in O.K. PERIODICALS #5 / The Body issue
Artificial Smile on Today And Tomorrow
Artificial Smile on
Artificial Smile on CreativeApplications.Net

UdK Berlin

supported through

Prof. Joachim Sauter
Prof. Jussi Ängeslevä
Prof. Dr. Marc Alexa

©2010/11 Andreas Schmelas & Stefan Stubbe, all rights reserved.