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This Book Cover Judges You Back

You can’t open this book–literally–until you make it clear you don’t have any preconceived notions.

I’ll admit it: I definitely judge books by their covers. But this book might train those of us who are prone to snap judgments to become slightly better people. If you look at the book with anything other than a neutral expression, the cover refuses to open.

“My aim was to create a book cover that is human and approachable hi-tech,” writes designer Thijs Biersteker, creative director of Moore, a Dutch agency. “If you approach the book, the face recognition system picks up your face and starts scanning it for signs of ‘judgment.’ If you’re overexcited or your face shows a skeptical expression, the book will stay locked. But if your expression is neutral (no judgment) the system will send an audio-pulse to the Arduino and the book will unlock itself.”

The book is a prototype for the Art Directors Club Netherlands design annual, full of award-winning work. “I often think our judgment comes before our amazement, and this book is filled with amazing design work that been awarded and judged already,” says Biersteker. “So I thought all that was left was to approach the book without judgment, ready for full amazement.”

The design uses customized software, built by a local tech firm, to track basic expressions. It’s something that will probably show up in more products soon. “I think face tracking has a great future in controlling things,” Biersteker says. “Our experience designers are doing research with these tools.” Companies like Intel are already experimenting with facial recognition apps that can replace passwords. But could tech that recognizes emotion–like this book–start changing how we act?

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Co.Exist who focuses on sustainable design. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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