Posts tagged with "Carnegie Mellon University"

Significant Otter app helps couples communicate ‘straight from the heart’

May 28, 2021

Want to send that special someone a heartfelt message? Scientists have created an app that can literally tell your partner how you’re feeling without uttering a single word, Study Finds reports.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University say the Significant Otter app can actually provide couples with a more meaningful way of communicating than using emojis, GIFs, and memes. Designed mainly for smartwatch users, the app monitors the wearer’s heart rate and then tries to gauge his or her emotional state by the results. The user can then send those real-time feelings to a significant other in the form of a friendly, animated otter.

“Our social cues are limited online,” says Fannie Liu, a graduate of CMU and research scientist at Santa Monica, California-based Snap. in a university release. “We’re exploring a new way to support digital connection through a deeper and more internal cue.”

Once the app measures a person’s sensed heart rate, it provides the wearer with a choice of otters to send. For example, if the app detects a fast heart rate, Significant Otter may suggest sending an excited or angry otter. However, they can also send an exercising or eating otter if that’s what’s really pushing their heart rate up.

In return, the person’s partner can reply with an otter that provides him or her with support, depending on the various heartbeat readings.

According to Study Finds, researchers from CMU, Snap, and the University of Washington started testing the app in April 2020 with 20 couples. Little did they know the coronavirus pandemic would provide the perfect environment to see how people keep connected to their loved ones when they have to keep their social distance.

The results reveal using bio-signals, like heart rate, made it easier for the couples to share more authentic communication while in quarantine. The participants reported that Significant Otter allowed them to have a sense of their loved ones’ well-being—even if they couldn’t be physically together.

“It’s coming from your heart,” Liu concludes. “It can be a very intimate gesture to see or feel someone’s heartbeat. It’s a signal that you’re living.”

Researchers presented their invention at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference in Chicago in May.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Embraceable you: Study finds that hugs make us happier

October 8, 2018

Have you ever felt as if you needed a hug? Now, there’s scientific evidence to show that, when your day is not going well, a hug can make a huge difference.

In fact, results of an investigation conducted by Carnegie Mellon University—and posted on October 4 on StudyFinds— indicate that people who “hug it out” after an argument are less likely to harbor bad feelings for the rest of the day.

The researchers   that people who consider themselves to be “huggers” actually enjoy better overall health and stronger relationships.

Previous research has shown the benefits of hugs—and the overall role of touch in promoting better mental and physical health—but such studies typically have focused on romantic relationships; while the latest probe sought to examine the power of hugging among various social circles.

For the study, the authors analyzed responses of 404 men and women between the ages of 21 and 55 who were in good health and lived in or near to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Only 25% of the participants were either married or had live-in romantic relationships.

Participants were interviewed every night for two weeks about their interactions with others each day. That meant describing such things as social activities, conflicts, resolutions, and of course, hugs. They also were asked about their mood and any changes as the day wore on.

The researchers found that people who got a hug after they had experienced a conflict showed a smaller decrease in positive emotions and a smaller increase in negative emotions, compared with individuals who were not hugged. In other words, being hugged at some point in the day may have helped them to keep a positive attitude—and, similarly, may have prevented them from feeling more upset about the conflict. In fact, hugs were shown to help reduce bad moods in participants through the following day, as well.

However, the authors identified several limitations of their study. For example, participants weren’t asked who they received their hugs from, or whether or not the hug was received before or after a conflict, which could perhaps play a role in the effectiveness of the hug.

“This research is in its early stages. We still have questions about when, how, and for whom hugs are most helpful,” admitted Michael Murphy, one of the study’s co-authors, in a press release.. “However, our study suggests that consensual hugs might be useful for showing support to somebody enduring relationship conflict.”

Murphy and his co-authors say that additional research is needed to better understand how, why, and even when hugging is so effective. Still, they believe their results show the potential power of a hug on harder days: “[H]ugs may be a simple yet effective method of providing support to both men and women experiencing interpersonal distress,” they conclude.

Research contact: michaelmurphy@cmu.edu