New wrist bands can provide insight into users' emotions: Study

London:  Smart wearable technology that changes colour, heats up, squeezes or vibrates as your emotions are heightened has the potential to help people with affective disorders better control their feelings, a study has found.

Researchers from Lancaster University in the UK have worked with smart materials on wrist-worn prototypes that can aid people diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorders in monitoring their emotions.

Wrist bands that change colour depending upon the level of emotional arousal allow users to easily see or feel what is happening without having to refer to mobile or desktop devices, according to the study, which will be presented at Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2019) conference in San Diego.

"Knowing our emotions and how we can control them are complex skills that many people find difficult to master," said co-author Muhammad Umair from Lancaster University.

"We wanted to create low-cost, simple prototypes to support understanding and engagement with real-time changes in arousal," he said.

The researchers worked with thermochromic materials that change colour when heated up, as well as devices that vibrate or squeeze the wrist.

Tests of the devices saw participants wearing the prototypes over the course of between eight and 16 hours, reporting between four and eight occasions each when it activated - during events such as playing games, working, having conversations, watching movies, laughing, relaxing and becoming scared.

A skin response sensor picked up changes in arousal -- through galvanic skin response, which measures the electrical conductivity of the skin -- and represented it through the various prototype designs. Those smart materials which were both instant and constant and which had a physical rather than visual output, were most effective.

"Participants started to pay attention to their in-the-moment emotional responses, realising that their moods had changed quickly and understanding what it was that was causing the device to activate. It was not always an emotional response, but sometimes other activities - such as taking part in exercise - could cause a reaction," Umair said.

"One of the most striking findings was that the devices helped participants started to identify emotional responses which they had been unable to beforehand, even after only two days," he added.

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