Whether you love or hate its product, Unilever wants to know, and they can tell by the look on your face.

The makers of Marmite, a savory spread popular in the U.K., is one of those products consumers either love or hate. Capitalizing on this binary reaction, Unilever has begun a scientific project in the guise of a clever marketing campaign—The Marmite Gene Project. Unilever has developed many components to this work include a web/smartphone app and a DNA kit used to determine whether a given person is a lover or hater. That is, presumably regarding its condiment—however, the concept has taken on a life of its own thanks to a viral TV/video.

With the ability to capture a video via smartphone or desktop, the giant CPG company is hoping to elicit trials of its product just so eager consumers can learn whether they are lovers or haters. The facial-recognition part of the app is serious business based on Microsoft’s Emotion API  which can detect a range of emotions including sadness, contempt, anger, happiness and surprise.

“Marmite has always divided the nation between love and hate. It’s a cultural phenomenon,” Simon Richings, creative partner at digital agency AnalogFolk, the creative brains behind the campaign, told AdFreak. “But all this time Marmite have been questioning: Why? Is it fate? With TasteFace we wondered: What if we could use the emotion-reading capabilities of facial recognition technology to discover, in real time, whether you were born a lover or a hater?”

The broader and very real test, which was part of the Marmite Gene Project, involved consumers taking a DNA swab sample which was sent to the company for analysis. The object was to determine whether an individual had the proper amount of single nucleotide polymorphisms which indicates the likelihood of liking the salty breakfast spread.

On a more scientist level, the project hopes to understand how genetics contributes to taste perception of Marmite and/or taste preference of Marmite. The secondary aim was to discover whether there was a predisposition to liking/ or hating the product (and presumably other products) based on existing genetic markers. A number of companies are rushing into an arena in which DNA and special analysis if bloodwork can be used to personalize diets for optimal health.

Of course, one of the byproducts of this use of AI was to have Marmite lovers and haters share their results on social media. To date, that goal appears to be a success–#marmite gene has more than 55k followers on Twitter.

The use of facial recognition is being used by product companies in many ways including KFC using it as a means to pay for food. Apple is hoping to deploy the technology as a means for users to lock and unlock their phones. Sephora is using facial recognition to show customers how makeup would look on their faces and L’Oréal has an AI-based virtual facial recognition app that performs a similar function.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (sfgate.com), the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.

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