Could Shopping Decisions Be Influenced by a Virtual Mirror?

By August 12, 2013
virtual mirror

Might a system which makes customers’ on-screen faces look happier one day finds its way into stores?

 Could the day come when customers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by changing their self-perception? Based on the hypothesis that physiological changes can generate psychological mood changes, Japanese researchers at the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the University of Tokyo have developed a system which they believe can manipulate human motion. The underlying principle involves artificially generating facial expressions – happy or sad – in order to make people unconsciously believe that this is their true emotional state.

Manipulating a person’s emotional state

The setup consists of a camera and a display screen. The camera captures and tracks a person’s face, and then transforms his/her expression in real time – for example turning the corners of the mouth up or altering the configuration of the area around the eyes. The deformed expression is then displayed on the screen, which thus acts as a sort of ‘virtual mirror’. During the Siggraph conference held in California in July, the research team tested the system on 21 volunteers. The results showed that they felt happy when they saw their own smiling faces in the ‘mirror’.

Potential to influence customer choice in-store

At the moment the prototype of the system can only generate two distinct facial expressions, a smiling face and a sad face. The research team believes that their invention could be applied to films, exhibitions or games, for the purpose of triggering emotions directly. However, retail sales teams might perhaps one day deploy this type of system in store fitting-rooms, so that a customer seeing his/her smiling face in the virtual ‘mirror’ would experience a mood boost and therefore be more likely to buy.


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