Pucker up! Kissing machine rates your smooches

A homemade electronic contraption lets you -- and anyone else who's walking by -- know how you and your partner in kissing rank on the smooch scale. It's totally objective data, of course.

A couple tests the Kissing Evaluator on Valencia Street in San Francisco while science teacher and inventor Marc "Zeke" Kossover operates the device. Marc "Zeke" Kossover

On a scale of 1 to 8, how are your kisses? You could check in with whomever you're smooching these days -- or you could consult the Kissing Evaluator.

The electronic contraption, built by a team of San Francisco makers, reacts to a couple's canoodles with LED lights and woob woob and bleb bleb noises (a method that's been officially certified by the International Association of Kissing Metrics).

The team built the whimsical device for Red Bull Creation, a national competition that challenges contestants to invent something creative around a piece of hardware -- and then display it in public. Red Bull sent this year's participants a "Turbull Encabulator" circuit board that it designed as a tool for making LED light art, along with RGB LED lights and instructions to "make something awesome."

Team Light Fantastic, led by high school science teacher Mark "Zeke" Kossover, used the Encabulator, plus an Arduino microcontroller and a bunch of telephone wires and connectors from RadioShack, to fashion a light display that visually rates a pair's kissing connection based on their contact time. The display sits atop a 10 foot plastic pole stabilized by 100 pounds of sand.

With shoes off, each half of the kissing couple stands on a separate metal plate that's connected to the Evaluator's electronics. Once their hands and lips connect (contact is measured by Makey Makey, a kit that turns just about any object into a touch pad), a noise and light show begins. After the smoochers break apart or 15 seconds elapse, the display rates their connection based on contact time and broadcasts either a rating of 1 to 8 or a "rainbow rating," which indicates the very best, woob-woob, off-the-chart kisses.

After spending several hours a night for two weeks building their machine, Team Light Fantastic debuted it on the streets of San Francisco's Mission district on a recent Saturday night, and local hipsters seemed more than happy to pucker up in public as music played and lights flashed. "We figured that people would want to know how good a kisser the other was before too much of the evening was wasted," Kossover joked in a YouTube description of the project.

Plenty of willing subjects
About 50 couples stopped to try the machine, including one celebrating a 16th anniversary, and while nearly everyone in the below video got high scores, it should be noted that "we are showing mostly people who had high scores as not to embarrass those with low ratings," Kossover said.

Power came from a nearby video store and Kossover used a wired remote control to reset the system, serve up applause, or buzz people off the "stage."

"People were so incredibly happy afterwards," Kossover told Crave. "It was really a lot of fun bringing happiness to people."

Some 200 teams received Red Bull kits, with about 50 submitting inventions. Of those, six winning teams, announced Monday, will compete in a live-build matchup from June 12 to 16 during Brooklyn's Northside music, film, and art festival.

Team Light Fantastic was not chosen to participate in that face-off, though Kossover said he and his creative compatriots hope to shower more affection on their Kissing Evaluator by giving it flashing hearts and sensors that measure wearers' pulses during make-out sessions.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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