For some reason, whenever gadgetry and smiling cross paths, things tend to get a little creepy. Where the smile trainer
was mostly a curiosity, the Orwellian implications of the Okao Catch
technology were a bit much -- even for the hardened tech blogger. Sure, the Mimi Switch is quite clever: instead of relying on your fingers, this remote control uses an earbud containing infrared sensors that measure the inner ear movements resulting from various facial expressions. "An iPod can start or stop music when the wearer sticks his tongue out," says the inventor, Kazuhiro Taniguchi of Osaka University
. Sounds innocent? Not so fast. The device can also be used to monitor your facial expressions for the appropriate levels of cheerfulness. "If it judges that you aren't smiling enough," the inventor goes on to say, "it may play a cheerful song." Or if you're smiling too much
, the thing can be programmed to play some latter-day Depeche Mode. That always bums us out.