Fake Smiles Are Sweet

Interactive Installation   |  Winter 2016


An interactive psychological installation encouraging people to smile more regardless of their emotional state. Participants have a 50% chance to earn a bar of chocolate based on the size of their smiles. The smile detection coded in the installation score the smile by size. There are many studies that show: A positive connection between an action and stimulation would make people more likely to repeat that behavior. (Pavlov's Dogs Theory) Even when people pretend to smile. As many know internal emotions affect our physical actions. It's also true the other way around.


My Role

I worked out the concept, Interaction design, visual effect, creative coding, sound creation, physic construction, built up Arduino module. In summary, I made the whole thing. ;p



Fake Smiles Are Sweet | Zsa Zsa Wen Blink Magazine Vol.21 " About Art Interpretation“  你的假笑甜又美 | 温渣渣

I was testing the face detection system :)  it scores the smile by size. More scores you get more thumb-up gifs you get.


  • I spent 3 weeks from scratch to fully-functional interactive one, with an intense self-taught process. (I had other classes during the process, so mainly worked during nights.)

  • The speed of the motors driving the pulley system is affected by the weight of the chocolate holder, which made the bag stay higher and higher after someone takes one chocolate bar out of the bag. I have to adjust motor speed by coding every day to make sure the bag could stay at the precise height.


What I Have Learned

  1. Creative programming with OpenCV face detection

  2. Camera module with Processing

  3. Motor module with Arduino

  4. Made Processing and Arduino communicate with each other

  5. Effective pulley structure



  • After people got a rejection, they tended to interact again and again until they get a bar of chocolate. 

  • Some audiences consider it as an advertisement for a brand in an inspiring new way; some others regard it as a cheering vending machine for lighting people’s day.


What Would I Improve

  • I don't have any financial support for chocolate bars. It would be cool if I could convince a relevant brand as the sponsor, which I didn't try.

  • I would choose two stepper motors instead of the servo motors, which could solve the height issue that I explained in the second challenge above.

We worked together at High 5 Games | NY

Jerry Wilson

Director of Customer Experience

"Zsa Zsa’s role was facilitating constant communication with her teammates. Every day, she participates in the meetings focused on clarifying and achieving specific goals. She is not afraid to ask questions nor receive feedback on her creations. Moreover, she has shown strong creative skills. An example of this is the jewelry gift box theme that she created for the bonus game. This innovative feature was stand-out in terms of concept, color choice, and graphic design."

ZSA ZSA WEN @ 2020