Opera Visage

Thesis Project/Personal Project
Express Negative Emotion via Computer Language.
Project Timeline
Sep. 2020 – Apr. 2021
Thesis Project
Speculative Design
Design Research
Concept Design
AR Prototype
Motion graphics and animation
Project Type
My Contribution
Opera Visage is a negative emotion expression tool that amplified facial expressions of negative emotions. It is meant to challenge the social value system that now inhibits people who belong to Eastern or collectivist cultures from expressing negative emotions, following and supporting the in-vogue “self-care movement”. This project is the opposite of facial recognition technology, but human beings control subtle facial expression by using computer language. Therefore, the machine agency conveys a more true expression than one's biological face. This project uses negative emotion as a start point, facial language as the vehicle, meant to prompt a conversation not just about  emotions but about how the design of machine language can help us break the social taboo.
Opera Visage is a facial expression tool that helps people to convey their negative emotions.
Emotions are a source of information (Schwarz and Clore, 1996) that help you understand what is going on around you. Negative emotions, in particular, can help you recognize threats (Zein, Wyatt and Grezes, 2015) and feel prepared to positively handle potential dangers (Biswas-Diener and Kashdan, 2014).

While how people express their negative emotions are different from culture to culture. Different from Western or individualism, in Eastern or collectivist culture, where see harmonious and inclusive as their main value system, people seldom show their negative emotions or say, ugly feelings, in order to maintain a minimum level of effective social functioning, such social environment serve as triggers to depressive episodes for vulnerable individuals.

Furthermore, mental health crisis is sweeping the globe, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are experiencing more challenges than usual. Thus, it is imperative to conceive a new negative emotion expression system.
I made an anonymous semi-open questionnaire consisting of questions about scenarios that triggers negative emotions and how participants would react. 80 percent participants has a collectivist culture background. Below are some noticeable quotes.
"Someone I'm not that familiar with try to sit at my front seat makes me anxious. It's just too close, I have a huge pressure when I'm driving. I’ll stop talking and my brow furrowed. I’m afraid other would tell but wish they can tell immediately."
— Candidate 1
"When my family try to hug me randomly, I tense up. I hope I don’t show awkward on my face. I don't feel comfortable with random hugs. Family usually feels like it is okay since they are "family".

— Candidate 2
.“People who come and sit down beside me on the piano bench while I'm playing bother me a lot. I don't know why this bothers me so much, but it does. It would be a big relief to me if I  could get them to move in a nice inoffensive way…"

— Candidate 3
This diagram shows the reasons why negative emotions are triggered. It depicts the complexity and uniqueness of negative emotions by drawing different contours under different scenarios. Due to this intricacy, it is vital for people to choose an appropriate negative expression.
What are people's emotional needs when they have negative emotions?
Indirect communication
Using a mild way to notice others.
Some facial expression are spontaneous
Amplifier
Facial expression can be involuntary at times.
People want to amplify their true feeling.
Agent
Urgent to have an agency.
The agent are more true than their biological face
Self-recognition
Biological face might not be true.
Real emotion is vague.
One need to know what they wanna show.
Encouragement
Hide physical reaction
Afraid of expressing it.
Gusty
Negative emotions could be triggered anytime anywhere.
Visualizing negative emotion with AR technology, entangle machine language with biological face to amplified, hide, or camouflage negative facial expressions.
Opera Visage combines a collection of negative emotion AR masks and a supportive app. All masks can be found in Opera Visage Database app(Negative Emotion masks database is continuing update) . Be inspired by traditional Chinese opera makeup, these masks are using a style that is full of dramatic conflict to express the complex nature of negative emotions.
Neutral
Opera Visage without any emotion.
Irritation
Irritation is an unambiguously mental stimulus, suggests a kind of hyper responsiveness to the subject’s external surroundings. 
Anxiety
Anxiety is used particularly when the threat is not immediate or is unclear, it is another central component that causes the suffering -- Fear.
Envy
A concealed admiration, always company with appreciate and jealous.
Depression
Depression always involved a deep and ineradicable conviction that someone was literally good for nothing.
Helpless
Helplessness can be fueled by trauma, grief, stress, mental health conditions, isolation, and numerous other factors
How to use it?

Opera Visage works in a very simple and convenient way. When users feel an emotion, they can start to review Opera Visage database recognizing which negative emotion they are holding or just simply type a sentence that describes their feeling. Then, users decide whether to amplify or hide or camouflage that negative emotion with their facial expressions. By choosing the right Opera Visage mask they prefer to put on their face, they're free to express any negative emotion to others or even to themselves.
How are people's relationships established, developed, and sustained within and through the mixed reality space?
With the development of mixed reality technology, people have more opportunities to expose to the cyber world, so I start to ask myself a question: How are people's relationships established, developed, and sustained within and through the mixed reality space?

Combined with Opera Visage, I imagined a Cyborg human facial expression extension. Then, I start to explore the possibility of how it looks like.

Anxiety is used particularly when the threat is not immediate or is unclear, it is another central component that causes the suffering -- Fear.
Envy is a concealed admiration, always company with appreciate and jealous.
Irritation is an unambiguously mental stimulus, suggests a kind of hyper responsiveness to the subject’s external surroundings. 
Helplessness can be fueled by trauma, grief, stress, mental health conditions, isolation, and numerous other factors.
The core of this project is it provides people a way to express emotions that actually can't be expressed through a person's biological face. I've struggled with negative emotions for years and years. I know those feelings even than understanding myself. Some of them go beyond language, they are more complicated than the kind of time or level that we can read. And I know I'm not the only one, so I've always wanted to arouse this social question to public. I'm so grateful that my thesis advisor Elise Co encourage me to pursue the topic I'm truly interested in instead of doing a thesis project that "looks great". This is the most meaningful year in my life.

Back to the project. Combining traditional user experience design with speculative design is a huge challenge for me. But I think there is huge potential in there. At the time of me doing my thesis, MOJO VISION has already published their first version of AR contact lens, that's wonderful news for me. Since I imagine Opera Visage could use AR technology as back stone, as the invisible computing comes true, all using scenario I prototyped makes sense then. Even this is the end of my thesis year, this thesis project hasn't ended, I still have a lot of thoughts that need me to develop, and welcome anyone who has any ideas to discuss.
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