Week 6 – Midterm Project

THE LAUGHER!

The concept of the laugher (working title) was to see to what degree laughing is contagious. If a human besides you laughs, there’s a chance, should you be in the right mood, that you yourself will laugh. Can the same be said about a computer?

Koen and I did some basic research on laughter in general, where we laugh from in our bodies, and what makes laughter possible. There has been research done with analyzing voices and determining sentiment, but we weren’t able to find much information to determine if people have actually successfully mapped a laugh in terms of its waveform, and if it could be recognized as opposed to normal speech.

Here’s a video of musician and therapist Laraaji discussing the different forms of laughter. It was inspiring to know where in our body we could use sensors to detect laughter, though we ultimately decided to make this experiment work, someone couldn’t be all ‘sensored’ up beforehand:

So, we decided to use a push button and a microphone as our basic sensors. The push button would start the interaction, with the computer inciting the laughter, and hopefully a somewhat organic exchange could occur afterwards (or at least after the person was coaxed through some more laughter).

Our first hurdle was interpreting the audio input in Arduino (and then to Processing). As the waveforms we interpret as sound move quickly and have lots of peaks and valleys, it’s really hard to gauge an intensity at an exact millisecond. Rather, we’d want to map the changes in waveform level in a certain amount of time. Thanks to Andy Sigler, the resident, we used this piece of code that takes 200 samples and maps the average:

long totalDif = 0;for (int i = 0; i<numReadings; i++) {

totalDif += abs (raw – previousRaw);
previousRaw = raw;
}
totalDif = totalDif/4;

We divided it by 4 because the number can get pretty large after 200 individual samples.

Next, in processing, we used 15 different laughing samples, triggered based on the intensity of input (a louder input will cause a more intense ‘laughing’ output). The computer’s ‘mouth’ is drawn based on the intensity of the output laugh. Since it’s likely that depending on who is using the Laugher, they may not show much of a physical response, after a certain time without any sound input, the Laugher will laugh again to see if they can coax the user into laughing.

The finish product featured a large push button, for visual effect/awesomeness.

We had a couple of test sessions with people to see what their reaction was like. We’ve made some adjustments since then. Here are two videos of users. I have an opinion about the whole exercise at this point, but before writing it on here, I want to see if it changes during the actual demo tomorrow.

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It really doesn’t need a button, but we thought it needed something to start the interaction. Upon realization, the button does take away from the interaction a bit, so maybe we should’ve tried some other sensory device to ‘trigger’ the laugher to begin. I suppose it could also just be ‘always running’ as well.

The man’s voice was out of circumstance as much as anything. On sound effect libraries, it was the one with the most options, and we didn’t think we knew anyone who’s laugh we’d really want to record/publish. We could have used a variety of laughs (cartoon laughs and children’s laughs were really entertaining), but we also thought that that was going to trick people into laughing more than the idea of laughter itself. So, it was a matter of having a ‘standard’ and non-jarring laugh and one that was available to sample. The female voice laughter was a bit more limited where I was looking for copyright cleared laughter.