This project imagines a futuristic scenario where the city becomes an emotional machine. A machine created from elements that see, feel, and even reconfigure their own function in relation to human emotions. Throughout history, emotional intelligence has differentiated humans from machines. While humans have an innate ability to spot subtle social cues and modify behavior accordingly, machine systems are deterministic and indifferent to human feelings; programmed to optimize human behavior for economic efficiency rather than negotiate social relations. The ubiquity of such systems improves living standards across the world. However, the imposing effect of routine and consumption also alienates people from their innate behaviors. What if the built environment could “see” and “feel” emotions to evoke new forms of authentic urban spectacle, desire and play?
The advancement of emotion-based computer vision and AI technologies will soon make this a reality. This project, named “The Emoting City”, gives these technologies physical form to speculate on their potential future. Comprised of a network of responsive architectural components, the resulting installation interprets emotions from the facial expressions of occupants as new environmental factors. Personal emotions are then manifested through shifting color and form as corollaries to a spectrum of psychological states, as either reinforcement or intervention. At the Meta scale, algorithms compute a group mood index over time from individual expression data. Ultimately, the user experience is one of personal attention as well as community building and spectacle. It encourages the deliberate collaboration between visitors to trigger novel responses and urban situations.
Situated within the active Futian Railway Station, “The Emoting City” assigns an empathetic role to large-scale public space, and demonstrates the potential of connecting the architecture of the human mind with that of the city. Promoting an emotion-aware “Eyes of the City”, this project advocates for the responsible use of machine vision to celebrate the authentic desires of inhabitants, and to mitigate the alienating effects of ubiquitous technology.