This thesis describes the development of a platform for touch-guided anxiety management via engagement with a robot pet. An existing physiological sensor suite and “Haptic Creature” robot pet are modified to influence user physiological responses through real-time interaction guided by physiological data. Participant reaction to and perception of the platform is then investigated in several experiments, with the results from these experiments used to refine the platform design. Finally, an experiment is conducted with elementary school children to investigate the ability of the platform to serve as a comforting presence during a stressful task. It is found that participants were not able to recognize the Creature mimicking their breathing and heart rates. However, once informed of their physiological link to the Creature they were able to use the motion of this device to gain a better awareness of their own physiological state. In addition, the presence of the Creature and its activities are correlated with changes in heart rate, breathing rate, skin conductance, and heart rate variability. These changes are suggestive of a reduction in anxiety. Overall, participant response to the platform was positive, with many participants reporting that they felt the Creature to be comforting and calming. Children in particular were receptive to the Creature, and eager to use it in their stressful environment of school testing. It is found that care must be taken, however, to ensure the platform is presented in an age-appropriate manner, as sudden changes in Creature state can be alarming to the user. The combination of physiological assessment of user affect with a small, physically comforting robot results in a unique system with the potential to serve as a companion or training aide for children or adults with anxiety disorder, especially in clinical and educational settings.
Mason N McLary
|Publisher||University of British Columbia|
|Location of Publication||Vancouver, British Columbia|
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