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Last updated at 14:15 BST, Monday, 03 August 2009

Smiles all around on Japan trains


31 July 2009

In Tokyo, some of the busiest railway stations in the world have installed computerised 'smile scanners' to help employees deliver a better service.

Roland Buerk in Tokyo

Smile scan


Click to hear the report:


Tokyo has some of the busiest train stations in the world. But now passengers can be assured of a friendly welcome from staff no matter how hard-pressed they are thanks to technology.

The computerised 'smile scanner' works by calculating the optimum curvature of the lips. Those with a low score are given words of advice, such as, 'you look too serious'. The idea is that workers maintain their computer-approved grins throughout the day.

Although the railway company says the smile scan system is not compulsory, all staff at the station have used it.

Taichi Takahashi from Keihin Express Railway:
I don't think we've had that much opportunity to stare at our faces that closely and for that long to check our facial expressions. The employees say the scan has helped them check their facial expressions, which helped them communicate more effectively with the customers.

So far the smile scanners have been installed at 15 train stations on the company's network, leaving grumpy workers with few places to hide.

Roland Buerk, BBC News, Tokyo


Click to hear the vocabulary:


no matter

regardless of, not taking into account


having a lot of difficulties doing something (especially because there is not enough money or, as here, time)


using a computer (to do something that was previously done by people)


a device that puts something (most often visual images) into digital form


best possible


degree of curving; here, shape

maintain their computer-approved grins

here, keep smiling in a way that the scanner 'thinks' is acceptable


mandatory, unavoidable

facial expressions

different ways in which people use their faces to put their message across (e.g. a smile, to make others more at ease, or a frown, to show you are feeling aggressive or unsure of something) that form part of human body language


in bad mood, sullen

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