affective computing: the progressive edge of usability and interface design

Sometime ago at the Austin Science Club, Dave Demaris introduced me to Roz Picard of the MIT Affective Computing Group. Affective computing, on one level, is part of a renewal of interest in emotions and bodily experience within psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Picard and her group are doing very exciting work on interfaces to computing that incorporate a richer range of inputs than typing and mouse-manipulating. Of course, researchers in voice recognition have struggled with this for some time. But while affective computing certainly can use any existing or prototype/experimental interfaces, the range of inputs are broad indeed.

This is very exciting, progressive work: for instance, see

Externalization Toolkit
We propose a set of customizable, easy-to-understand, and low-cost physiological toolkits in order to enable people to visualize and utilize autonomic arousal information. In particular, we aim for the toolkits to be usable in one of the most challenging usability conditions: helping individuals diagnosed with autism. This toolkit includes: wearable, wireless, heart-rate and skin-conductance sensors; pendant-like and hand-held physiological indicators hidden or embedded into certain toys or tools; and a customized software interface that allows caregivers and parents to establish a general understanding of an individual’s arousal profile from daily life and to set up physiological alarms for events of interest. We are evaluating the ability of this externalization toolkit to help individuals on the autism spectrum to better communicate their internal states to trusted teachers and family members”


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