A student at the Royal College of Art in London has created a line of interactive household objects that are designed to create feelings of happiness in those who use the objects.
The line includes a phone that requires the user to smile for it to work and an alarm clock that requires the user to hold two actuators, motors that move a mechanism and convert that energy into motion, above their head for two minutes.
"A series of electronic products which require physical interaction from the user to engage with them; these physical interactions create chemical changes within the user's brain which engender feelings of delight and happiness," says Ted Wiles, creator of the line, on his website.
There are four different products designed to incite happiness. The first, as mentioned, is an alarm clock that includes two "actuators." Users must hold these two devices above their head for a total of two minutes, adopting a "victory pose." With accelerometers in each of the actuators that send Bluetooth signals back to the main device, the posture increases testosterone levels and reduces cortisol, helping users feel more confident.
The next object is a toaster that has to be hugged before it will heat up the bread. The pressure of the embrace activates pressure sensors, which in turn activate heating elements. The act of hugging increases the user's levels of dopamine and serotonin, increasing feelings of comfort.
The third object is a telephone that requires the user to smile at their reflection to take or make a call. The user will also have to smile every three seconds to avoid being put on hold. This increases positive self-image and also increases levels of serotonin.
The last object is a mirror that distorts the reflection of the user, offering them a moment of contemplation and reminding them that everything is experienced through a subjective perspective.
"There's a theme that ties together all my work; happiness," said Wiles in an interview with the BBC. "Interactions between the product and the user which makes them happier as a person, but also the chemical changes in the brain which make people happier."
While it might be unlikely that we will end up seeing these products on store shelves, the idea certainly is interesting, and is one that could be applied to a range of other products. Of course, if the user is angry or upset about something it would be hard to imagine trying to force a smile on the phone, but maybe that's the point.