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Emotional Interaction

Chapter Introduction


The main goals of this chapter are to accomplish the following:

  • Explain how our emotions relate to behavior and the user experience.

  • Explain what are expressive and annoying interfaces and the effects they can have on people.

  • Introduce the area of emotion recognition and how it is used.

  • Describe how technologies can be designed to change people's behavior.

  • Provide an overview on how anthropomorphism has been applied in interaction design.


When you receive some bad news, how does it affect you? Do you feel upset, sad, angry, or annoyed—or all of these? Does it put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day? How might technology help? Imagine a wearable technology that could detect how you were feeling and provide suggestions geared toward helping to improve your mood, especially if it detected that you were having a real downer of a day. Would you find such a device helpful, or would you find it unnerving that a machine was trying to cheer you up? Designing technology to detect and recognize someone's emotions automatically from sensing aspects of their facial expressions, body movements, gestures, and so forth, is a growing area of research often called emotional AI or affective computing. There are many potential apps for using automatic emotion sensing, other than those intended to cheer someone up, including health, retail, driving, and education. These can be used to determine if someone is happy, angry, bored, frustrated, and so on, in order to trigger an appropriate technology intervention, such as making a suggestion to them to stop and reflect or recommending a particular activity for them to do.

In addition, emotional design is a growing area relating to the design of technology that can engender desired emotional states, for example, apps that enable people to reflect on their emotions, moods, and feelings. The focus is on how to design interactive products to evoke certain kinds of emotional responses in people. It also examines why people become emotionally attached to certain products (for instance, virtual pets), how social robots might help reduce loneliness, and how to change human behavior through the use of emotive feedback.

In this chapter, we include emotional design and affective computing using the broader term, emotional interaction, to cover both aspects. We begin by explaining what emotions are and how they shape behavior and everyday experiences. We then consider how and whether an interface's appearance affects usability and the user experience. In particular, we look at how expressive and persuasive interfaces can change people's emotions or behaviors. How technology can detect human emotions using voice and facial recognition is then covered. Finally, the way anthropomorphism has been used in interaction design is discussed.

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