The Light Side: Science Says Beware of that Trustworthy Face

May 9, 2014

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Can you fake your personality? A new study published in the journal Psychological Science says you can, if you are good at manipulating the muscles in your face. Calling this "social camouflage," the scientists behind the study found that a person whose "static" face makes him seem untrustworthy, for example, is capable of morphing into someone whom you will spill your guts to, given the right strategic movements of the face, such as a dimpled smile.

Neuroscientist and psychologist Daniel Gill, of the University of Glasgow, and his colleagues studied the responses of volunteers who viewed different "dynamic" faces and evaluated them on the traits of dominance, trustworthiness, and attractiveness. They then applied the information into a software program that produced realistic-looking faces. After a new set of volunteers rated the computer-generated faces on the same three traits, Gill and colleagues determined that "specific facial movements camouflage the social appearance of a face by modulating the features of phenotypic morphology."

In other words, even the most shady-looking face can be overridden. And the researchers were able to deduce the specific combinations of muscle groups that create disguises to build models for dominant, trustworthy, and, to a lesser extent, attractive faces. "Even the most submissive face [was] transformed into a dominant face by social camouflaging and reaches the same level of dominance as the most dominant static facial morphology," Gill and colleagues wrote.

That means a person who is talented enough at making expressions can come off as dominant as someone who naturally has an intimidating look. It also explains why Jim Carrey has had such a successful movie career. "An attractive character will require an actor with attractive morphology; however, social camouflage can help an actor fake a dominant or trustworthy character."

But in real life, Gill and colleagues wrote, "Animals use social camouflage as a tool of deceit to increase the likelihood of survival and reproduction." This would equate to a con man making a buck off you by pretending to be sincere and in need of your help.

Your Next Makeup Could Be Printed at Home

As 3D printing continues its ascension, wonderment continues around its disruptive potential, and the cosmetics industry might not be immune. A Harvard business school graduate has developed a 3D printing machine concept that would let users affordably create their own makeup using software available now.

Serial entrepreneur Grace Choi, who has already created several successful cosmetics and jewelry products, at the recent TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York City unveiled the Mink, which works in tandem with programs like Photoshop or Paint to print out custom-color makeup. Users would come up with their own colors by taking photos or retrieving them from the Web and then uploading them to software. Choi says the Mink uses the same makeup substrates that big cosmetics companies source and that the machine's inkjet will handle the pigments.

Choi, who intends to produce printers under $200, is aiming the concept at girls and young women of ages 13 to 21, who are more likely to attempt do-it-yourself projects and self-expressive custom colors for instant gratification. She is looking to partner with an inkjet printer manufacturer in perhaps a type of licensing deal.

Details of the concept have yet to be fleshed out, and online commenters have raised questions ranging from proper color calibration, to whether different substrates will be needed to make different types of makeup, to safety. The Food & Drug Administration might have a say with the Mink.

Still, the idea of coming into the market space between discount makeup retailers that don't have desired colors and high-end brands that sell wide color palettes but with significantly upcharged prices is intriguing -- as is allowing consumers to manufacture makeup from home. Choi's bold plan is to have machines ready for sale by the end of the year.

Baseball Promotion to Bring Early Midsummer Heat

No one will contest that the baseball season is long, especially for teams that are marginally competitive. Even with the dog days of summer months away, the Seattle Mariners' marketing department needed to spice up ticket sales for a team that is hovering around the .500 mark. As a result, "Salute to Sriracha Night" is coming to Safeco Field on May 22, barely a month into the season.

"We love sriracha hot sauce in the office," Gregg Greene, the Mariners' senior marketing director, told MyNorthwest. "We're always borrowing each others' bottles. We know people think it's cool and has some cache, and we thought, 'Why don't we do a night to celebrate sriracha at the ballpark?'"

Sriracha sauce, made from chili pepper paste and distilled vinegar, originated from Thailand and is staple of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Its popularity has grown beyond foodie culture in recent years. That prompted the Mariners' marketing folks to call it "America's new favorite condiment" in their promotion, which might be a stretch beyond the seventh-inning kind.

Fans of the Mariners, or just the Asian hot sauce, perhaps, will enjoy a special themed concession area at the ballpark, where there will be a menu featuring sriracha cream cheese hot dogs, sriracha garlic fries, and sriracha milkshakes. The $25 ticket package includes a free item from the menu along with a complimentary sriracha t-shirt (picture a sriracha bottle replacing the Space Needle) and a main-level seat to watch the Mariners take on the Houston Astros.

Still to be determined is whether the promotion, if not a visit by baseball's worst team, will light a fire in the Mariners' play, or if the team will wear sriracha-themed uniforms for one night -- which would cap off another trendy gimmick that's happening in baseball. Nevertheless, the team's marketers have declared the game night "the hottest ticket of the year."

A Molecular Scanner in Your Pocket

The SCiO is a scanner designed to give users information about an object's chemical makeup. Consumer Physics Inc. is running a Kickstarter funding project to bring the prototype concept into mass production.

SCiO can be used to scan objects, keep a log of your scans, and also contribute to a worldwide database populated by information from every user. Examples in the Kickstarter video include looking for the sweetest watermelon, calculating how many calories you burn during a workout, or discovering how many calories are in a food.

The scanning process is explained simply and easily in the video. SCiO uses a spectrometer to take light reflected back from the object and transform it into a spectrum. The spectrum is sent to the cloud for analysis and then beamed back to your phone.

Kickstarter funding will be used to develop a small, low-cost spectrometer that can be scaled up for mass production. A large team of engineers and developers have been working on the project for three years.

Several apps already exist for using SCiO to scan objects -- food, medicine, and plants already have large existing databases. Developers are quick to point out that the more you scan, the more data will be available for the world. Some parts of the operating system are already open source so that developers can help to create more apps and have the opportunity to deepen the database.

The device itself weighs 20 g and holds a battery charge for up to one week. Measuring time is currently specified at 1 to 2 s, with a range of up to 20 mm. Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy is the current connection method and currently compatible with newer iPhones, iPads, and Android phones.

This isn't the first tricorder-type device that we've seen in the last year, but it feels like the one closest to becoming a fully realized product. Consumer Physics is obviously a large company with technical knowledge and advanced funding already in place. The campaign has already blasted past its $200,000 goal with more than a month to go.

Deliveries of the finalized scanners, at the $299 pledge level, are estimated to begin in February 2015.

https://d2pq0u4uni88oo.cloudfront.net/projects/905552/video-380583-h264_high.mp4

This article by Tom Spendlove was originally published on Engineering.com and is adapted in its entirety with permission. For more stories like this please visit Engineering.com. Top photo credit: Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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