Researchers at the University of Lancaster have developed a smart material that can help those with affective disorders, such as anxiety, bi-polar disorder and depression, to monitor their emotions. The smart material, worn as a wrist band, can alert the user to a change in emotion in real time, sometimes even if they have not become fully aware of it themselves, helping them to identify issues and situations that affect their emotions.
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Keeping track of your emotions can be a secondary consideration in today’s busy world. However, for those with affective disorders, identifying situations, habits, and environments that are affecting their emotional state could be beneficial in improving their condition. Indeed, noting triggers that contribute to stress and unhappiness could be hugely beneficial for everyone.
These researchers have developed a range of wearable smart materials that can indicate changes in emotional arousal through a sensor which measures the electrical conductivity of skin. This property, called the galvanic skin response, can provide information about changes in someone’s emotional state, in real-time.
The wearable prototypes can be worn as a wrist band, and can inform the wearer about their emotional state in a variety of ways. “Previous work on these technologies has focused on graphs and abstract visualizations of biosignals, on traditions mobile and desktop interfaces,” said Muhammad Umair, a researcher involved in the work. “But we have focused on devices that are wearable and provide not only visual signals but also can be felt through vibration, a tightening feeling or heat sensation without the need to access other programmes – as a result we believe the prototype devices provide real-time rather than historic data.”
So far, the Lancaster team tested the devices in volunteers who wore them for 8–16 hours, and reported different instances when they were activated by an emotional response throughout the day. “Participants started to pay attention to their in-the-moment emotional responses, realizing that their moods had changed quickly and understanding what it was that was causing the device to activate,” said Umair. “One of the most striking findings was that the devices helped participants start to identify emotional responses which they had been unable to beforehand, even after only two days.”