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Comedy club uses iPad facial recognition to charge by the laugh

A Barcelona comedy club brings rationality to humor. How funny.

2 min read

Will customers deliberately stop laughing at later acts, in order to save money? Edudu/Vimeo screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Seventeen laughs, eight giggles, four guffaws and one snort till the snot slipped into your cerveza? That'll be 6.6 euros, please.

This, I imagine, was the sweet sound of the checkout at one Barcelona comedy club, after it took the bold step of charging its customers not for the fun, but for every single sign of humor.

The Teatreneu Club thought it might be an amusing experiment -- a sort of world first -- to give willing customers an iPad equipped with facial recognition technology that captures every laugh. The iPads are attached to the seat in front and keep score of the laugh total.

The charge per laugh is 0.30 euros. The Teatreneu Web site says that there is a maximum charge of 8 euros for its latest performance, though the BBC reports that the maximum was, in the past, 24 euros.

The idea was a reaction to increased government taxes on theatrical performances, which severely hit revenue. Pay-per-laugh was a big success, with other venues copying the idea.

I worry, though, about this incursion of rationality into an increasingly invaded emotive world.

Might it be the case that later acts will suffer, because patrons will become stingy with their laughs, feeling that they've spent enough? Or could the opposite happen, with the audience withholding expenditure early before actually parting their lips and therefore parting with their cash?

Or might they simply reach the maximum early and let later laughs be acts of freedom?

Regardless, as the video above suggests, laughter might be merely one criterion for artistic charging. Many rationalists surely look forward to the day when a Nicholas Sparks movie is pay-per-sniffle or a summer blockbuster is pay-per-teenage-boy's-whoa-emission.

Restaurants, too, are in the entertainment business, so what's stopping them from charging by the belch or fart?

In the end, data will be the death of us. In the meantime, let's bathe in the joys of paying to learn about ourselves.

That'll be $370, please. Oh, didn't I mention? I'm charging by the word.