More or less teeth? Computer modeling helps work out the recipe for a perfect smile

the perfect smile
Computer modeling can do anything. It can create microworlds for teaching robots how to pick up real-world objects. It can help model the spread of influenza through social media posts. And it can let you know whether the smile you’re flashing Brenda from accounts receivable is more “welcome to the company” or crazy Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

This last idea is one that researchers from the University of Minnesota recently set out to explore with a new study, designed to uncover the components inherent in a good smile.

“We teamed up with a digital artist and medical facial specialists to develop a 3D model of the human face capable of realistically creating the subtle spatio-temporal variations seen in facial expressions,” Dr. Sofia Lyford-Pike, one of the author on the study, told Digital Trends. “We created short animations of smile-like expressions by systematically manipulating three spatial features: smile angle, smile extent, and teeth show, as well as dynamic symmetry. To determine which combinations of smile features were most successful, we asked over 800 participants to rate the smile animations in terms of their ‘effectiveness,’ ‘genuineness,’ ‘pleasantness,’ and perceived emotional intent.”

the perfect smile screen shot 2017 07 03 at 22 59

The conclusion the researchers reached was that, for the most part, big V-shaped smiles with lots of teeth are worse than subtler, less manic ones. And that there is such a thing as a smile that’s too perfect. “Two aspects of the results were surprising,” Lyford-Pike said. “The smile ‘sweet spot’ that we discovered contradicts the ‘more is always better’ principle, which is currently guiding medical practice. [Also], slight temporal asymmetries are preferred over smiles that evolve in a perfectly symmetric fashion. To our surprise, perfect mirror image smiles were rated as faker and creepier than smiles with slight temporal asymmetries.”

If you’re wondering why researchers are investing so much time in figuring out the perfect smile, though, don’t worry: this isn’t open-ended research with no useful applications. “The goal is to understand precisely what makes a smile successful, for the purpose of improving facial reanimation surgeries for patients with partial facial paralysis,” Lyford-Pike concluded. “Beyond this immediate application, our results can be useful for creating more realistic animation of facial expressions in digital environments. A future goal is the development of personalized biofeedback applications, which can be used to improve one’s ability to display and perceive facial expressions.”

You can read the full study in the online journal PLOS One.

Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Cars

Volkswagen prepares its electric ID R race car for its toughest challenge yet

The Volkswagen ID R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring to set a lap record. With Romain Dumas at the wheel, the ID R will try to become the fastest electric car around the grueling, 12.9-mile long track.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Cars

The VR goggles you wear to shoot alien ships is helping Magna design car parts

Canadian automotive supplier Magna has started using virtual reality in its research and development department. The technology helps engineers get a better view of what they're working on, whether it's an interior part or a powertrain.
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.
Emerging Tech

Alphabet’s Wing drones now have FAA approval to deliver packages in the U.S.

Alphabet Wing has become the first company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA. This means that it can begin commercial deliveries from local businesses to homes in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

The startup behind the world’s first laundry robot has folded

When the Laundroid was first announced almost three years ago, then shown off at last year's CES, it was met with a fair bit of both intrigue and derision. But now Seven Dreamers, the company behind it, says the company is out of money.