Emotional labor is a kind of work we often don't recognize as work: the need to appear friendly, deferential, or attentive at a job. Fast food restaurant Pret a Manger is famous (or infamous) for holding its employees to exacting friendliness standards, and emotional labor's overall importance is becoming a more and more pressing question. It's frequently, for example, implicated when talking about the supposed American "crisis of masculinity" and the growth of the service sector: are some men, rarely asked to perform as much emotional labor as women, having difficulty adjusting to the new economy? And how much should companies be able to dictate employees' facial expressions and demeanor anyways? These are all complicated, highly politicized questions, but Japanese scientist Hirotaka Osawa has found perhaps the best possible answer: fit yourself out with a pair of terrifying cyber-eyes that express all your feelings for you.
The BBC has an excellent explanation of how Osawa's prototype device, dubbed AgencyGlass, works. Essentially, the two OLED screens are paired with a camera and several sensors, then linked to a smartphone or computer. If they see a face, they'll tell the "eyes" on the screens to follow it with an attentive gaze, while the wearer reads or plays with their phone. As the video shows, it's an extremely advanced iteration of the "fake eyes in glasses" trick used in high school sitcoms. A more advanced and realistic version could be used simply for hiding distraction; one could also see it being worn by people who respond poorly to social cues, or in situations where non-augmented emotions could be hard to read. The version that exists now is a body horror nightmare straight out of City of Lost Children.
According to the BBC, Osawa is also working on a "smile display," working on the theory that for emotional displays, the mouth is more important than the eyes.
That should be fun.