Comedy clubs in Spain are starting to install facial recognition systems so that they can charge audience members by the laugh, according to the BBC’s Jane Wakefield.
It started as a response to tax increases on theater tickets, which depressed attendance. The Teatreneu club decided to team up with ad agency The Cyranos McCann to come up with the biometric system, and they soon were installing face-scanning tablets on the backs of the club’s seats. The tablets use software that recognizes when audience members are smiling and laughing, and the club charges 0.30 euros per laugh, capping the surcharge at 24 euros.
It isn’t clear exactly how the practice has affected attendance, but the club is reporting positive results in terms of increased ticket prices, and other comedy clubs in the country are starting to follow suit. It’s questionable what kind of effect this practice will have in the long term – will performers want to go on stage at a venue where the audience has a financial incentive not to laugh? Or will they be offered a share in profits if they really kill? Will audiences perceive it as a tax on their fun, or as a break when shows are bad? It’s too early to say, but what is clear is that biometric technologies’ growing integration into everyday social life and entertainment is no joke.
October 28, 2014 – by Alex Perala