Human-animal interaction (HAI) has been observed to effectively reduce stress and induce positive emotions owing to the process of directly petting and interacting with animals. Interaction with virtual animals has recently emerged as an alternative due to the limitations in general physical interactions, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, more generally, due to the difficulties involved in providing adequate care for animals. This study proposes mixed reality (MR)-based human-animal interaction content along with presenting the experimental verification of its effect on the reduction of mental stress. A mental arithmetic task was employed to induce acute mental stress, which was followed by either MR content, in which a participant interacted with virtual animals via gestures and voice commands, or a slide show of animal images. During the experiment, an electrocardiogram (ECG) was continuously recorded with a patch-type, wireless ECG sensor on the chest of the subject, and their psychological state was evaluated with the help of questionnaires after each task. The findings of the study demonstrate that the MR-based interaction with virtual animals significantly reduces mental stress and induces positive emotions. We expect that this study could provide a basis for the widespread use of MR-based content in the field of mental health.
|Publication Title||Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)|
|Author Address||Department of Information Technology Engineering, Sookmyung Women's University, Seoul 04310, Korea.|
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