Big Brother Is Gauging You

The Stimmungsgasometer/Fühlometer is a project by Richard Wilhelmer, Julius von Bismarck, and Benjamin Maus which debuted in Berlin in the Fall of 2008, involving a giant smiley face that glows at night and responds to the moods of Berliners on the street. A camera with a zoom lens attached to a laptop is covertly set up in an apartment window focused on passer-bys on a bridge. The camera feeds images to the computer, and through software developed by the Fraunhofer Institut, faces are analyzed to for their mood. The emotions captured by the system are then translated in real-time to the smiley face.

The project is something like a benign Rear Window situation, where a wheelchair-bound James Stewart doesn’t witness a crime, but meticulously sits by his window gauging the expression of citizens in an attempt to understand the collective mood of the city. The project is also reminiscent of projects by Rafael Lozano Hemmer, which use communication and sensing technology, to gauge various elements of the collective.