Upbeat computers boost users

May 5/12, 2004

One of the annoying things about computers is their lack of sympathy.

Researchers from the University of Tampere in Finland have showed that when computers equipped with speech synthesizers gave users spoken positive reinforcement during software delays, users smiled more and performed better at subsequent problem-solving exercises.

The research shows that synthesized emotional messages affect the cognitive operations of the computer user, and could eventually be used to make using computers more pleasant and more productive.

The researchers asked volunteers to solve a color puzzle using a mouse. There were periodic delays in mouse movements, and following the delays users received emotionally-worded positive messages, emotionally- worded negative messages, or, as a control, no message at all. Positive and negative messages, translated from Finish, included "The problem will soon be happily over," and "This is annoying", respectively.

The researchers are working on a wireless feedback system that will provide the computer with feedback from users, and at the same time allow users to move around freely.

Computers could be made to give more positive feedback today; applications that involve more sophisticated feedback from the user could be practical in five to ten years, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the April, 2004 issue of Interacting with Computers.

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Upbeat computers boost users

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