The Varieties of Human Facial Expression. 12 bit version

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The Varieties of Human Facial Expression. (12 bit version)

A Video Installation by Arthur Elsenaar & Remko Scha


"The Varieties of Human Facial Expression" is a video-installation which shows 4096 facial expressions, displayed sequentially on a computer-controlled human face. The expressions are systematically enumerated by an algorithm: twelve individual muscles are switched on and off in all possible combinations.


About ten years ago, Arthur Elsenaar developed a portable computer system which can control the facial muscles of a live human person in a precise and reliable way. Elsenaar has used this technology in several performances and installations, often collaborating with Remko Scha and Huge Harry. These pieces were presented at conferences, galleries and museums throughout Europe and the United States (for instance at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, and at the MIT Media Lab, in Cambridge, Mass.).


The facial muscle control system consists of a small microcontroller and custom-made interface electronics. The system allows for precise control of the facial muscles through transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation. Up to 16 separate muscles can be stimulated at the same time, each in 127 discrete steps. A MIDI interface has been added which makes it possible to control the facial patterns through MIDI-software, and to synchronize them with computer-generated music.



The externally controlled human face can be treated as an extension of a computer system. Therefore the face can function as a display device for any computational process. At the Institute of Artificial Art, we are working to develop this further towards algorithmic choreography for the computer-controlled human face.

More information

Visit the Department of ArtiFacial Expression at the Institute of Artificial Art: