In this paper we investigate the ability of a haptic device to reduce anxiety in users exposed to disturbing images, as we begin to explore the utility of haptic display in anxiety therapy. We conducted a within-subjects experimental design where subjects were shown two sets of disturbing images; once with the haptic creature and once without; as well as a control condition with calming images. Subjects were connected to bio-sensors which monitored their skin conductance, heart rate and forehead corrugator muscle changes; we then used these signals to estimate the subject's arousal, which has been correlated with anxiety level. We observed a significant interaction effect on arousal when subjects held the creature in the presence of disturbing (versus calm) images. The results of this exploratory study suggest that the creature was able to reduce the level of anxiety induced in the subjects by the images. Qualitative feedback also indicated that a majority of subjects found the haptic creature comforting, supporting the results from the bio-sensor readings
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