Sensory Perception & Interaction Research Group

University of British Columbia

Full citation: 
Sefidgar, Y., "TAMER: Touch-guided Anxiety Management via Engagement with a Robotic Pet: Efficacy Evaluation and the First Steps of Interaction Design,", M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2012.
Anxiety disorders are widespread among children and adolescents, yet the existing treatments are effective for only a small proportion of the affected young population. We propose a novel idea for improving the efficacy of anxiety treatments that relies on affective touch as a therapeutic medium. Building upon the wealth of evidence for therapeutic benefits of animals, our approach utilizes an animatronic pet, the Haptic Creature, as a tool to deliver calming effects. We ground our idea in the framework of social cognitive theory as used in human-animal interaction. We first model the interaction design as a search in a broadly defined interaction space, and then introduce a novel and systematic approach to the interaction design process. We describe our iterative design of a human-Creature interaction that was measurably calming, and share the methodology and results of our two most significant evaluation cycles. Our principal results, from the second study, showed that the interaction with the Haptic Creature, while it is breathing slowly and constantly, produces calming effects as indicated by decreased heart rate and breathing rate as well as the subjective reports.
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