Design fiction

Would You Bring This 3D Printed Emotion Detector on a Date?

3D Printed Emotion Detector

Inspired by the sci-fi film Blade Runner, researchers are working on a 3D Printed Emotion Detector… But is it really a good idea?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if a person’s emotional responses could be measured? If you could use new technology to tell if your date is really into you? Researchers from Lancaster University and the Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) at UCL don’t think so. And they’re using 3D printing to make a point.

The 1982 sci-fi fantasy film, Blade Runner, featured a particularly inventive and devious piece of technology: the Voight-Kampff machine, a fictional tool much like a polygraph-like machine.

It was used during interrogation to measure heart rate, blushing, and other physical responses. Its purpose was to distinguish human beings from “replicants”, or synthetic humans.

UCL Researchers have 3D printed their own (non-functional) version of the Voight-Kampff machine, and they’ve even had a bit of fun coming up with possible marketable scenarios — like analyzing your partner on a first date.

3d printed emotion detector

3D Printed Emotion Detector: Cool or Horrifying?

The “design fiction” piece is small enough to clip onto the bottom of a smartphone, making it ideal for undercover use. But the real point of the device to discuss the ethical implications of a world where computers are used to monitor and evaluate emotions.

Head of the research team, Professor Paul Coulton, explains that the speculative design is an example of dangerous tools that may be plausible in the foreseeable future. These tools, though they sound fun or even practical, raise huge ethical questions.

“People are working towards this kind of thing. What we are doing is questioning whether it has a place in our society — what kind of uses they have and what the world would actually be like with them. We want people to think about the ethical implications of what we do. Technically a lot of this is possible but is it actually what we want?”

The fun and ample usages right might one day be right under our noses, but is it worth it? Worse still, by 3D printing it, the team reminds us just how quickly technology is changing. One day, even an average Jane could 3D print something dangerously powerful into existence.

(Source: Lancaster University)

3D Printed Emotion Detector à la Blade Runner (Image: Lancaster University)
3D Printed Emotion Detector à la Blade Runner (Image: Lancaster University)