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+ - Biofeedback used to make people anxious->

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "Biofeedback is well-known as a relaxation technique, but the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has tried to use it for the opposite purpose: making people anxious. The technique, described by a paper in the November 2014 issue of the Interacting with Computers journal, exploits heartbeat detection. While users navigated a 3D world, the computer detected and played their actual heartbeat (users were not told it was theirs) in the audio background of the virtual world. At a couple of times during the experience, the application artificially increased the frequency of the played heartbeat and then reverted it to the actual one after some seconds. The study described in the paper contrasts the technique with aversive stimuli frequently used in video games when the character gets hurt such as decreasing health bars or increasing the frequency of an heartbeat sound that is not related to the user’s actual heartbeat. The biofeedback-based technique produced much larger (subjective as well as physiological) levels of user anxiety than those classic aversive stimuli."
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+ - Be it Yogic or Tactical Breathing, mobile apps shown to be effective->

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "Controlled breathing exercises are used for a variety of purposes including health (for example, reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure), meditation (for example, Yogic breathing) and military operations (for example,
Tactical Breathing). A growing number of breathing training apps is thus cropping up in on-line stores, but their actual effectiveness had never been evaluated. The Computers in Human Behavior journal has now published
the first comparative study of breathing training apps . Researchers have first surveyed the available apps, identifying three main types. Many breathing training apps limit themselves to play audio instructions files, while others attempt to use the graphics capabilities of smartphones to provide visual instructions. Typical visual interfaces either use an animated element such as a sphere that inflates and deflates as the user’s lungs should do or they visualize the entire breathing pattern moving over a time axis (see Figures 1 and 2 in the paper). The study evaluated the effectiveness of the three types of apps both objectively by measuring respiratory patterns of users and subjectively by asking them to rate the apps on different scales. Results show that the studied breathing training apps are effective in supporting users, especially when traditional audio instructions are augmented with an animated visualization of the entire breathing pattern moving over time."

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+ - Empathy for virtual characters studied with fMRI brain imaging

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes " A novel brain imaging study published by the prestigious Neuroimage journal sheds light on different reactions that players’ brains display when they meet a virtual character in a game world. While their head was inside a fMRI machine, participants played an interactive virtual experience in which they had to survive a serious fire emergency in a building by reaching an exit as soon as possible. However, when they finally arrived at the exit, they also found a virtual character trapped under an heavy cabinet, begging them for help. Some participants chose not to help the character and took the exit, while others stopped to help although the fire became more and more serious and moving away the cabinet required considerable time. Functional brain imaging showed activation of very different brain areas of players when they met the character. When there was an increased functional connectivity of the brain salience network, which suggests an enhanced sensitivity to the threatening situation and potential danger, players ignored the character screams and went for the exit. In those players who helped the character, there was an engagement of the medial prefrontal and temporo-parietal cortices, which in the neuroscience literature are associated with the human ability of taking the perspective of other individuals and making altruistic choices. The paper concludes by emphasizing how virtual worlds can be a salient and ecologically valid stimulus for modern social neuroscience."

+ - The Placebo Effect occurs with Computer Applications too

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "In medicine, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs (Placebo Effect). But could that happen with computers too? Can it be that the things a computer application claims to do are “all in our mind” and the app is actually a sham? The first scientific study of the Placebo Effect in computing, just published by the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies , gives an affirmative answer. The experiment considered affective computing, that is those fancy applications that claim to know user’s emotions by detecting physiological parameters with sensors. Researchers took two well-known affective computing systems and used them to control in real-time the state of an avatar that looked more and more nervous as users’ stress level increased, and more and more relaxed as it decreased. But they also considered a third system in which, unbeknown to users, the sensors were disconnected from the computer and the avatar state was controlled by a random stream of physiological data instead of the real user’s data. Results show that participants believed that the sham application was able to display their stress level. Even worse, only one of the two (costly) affective computing systems produced better results than the placebo. This suggests that evaluations of such novel computer applications should include also a placebo condition, as it is routinely done in medicine but not yet in computer science."

+ - Game Characters controlled by Player's Emotions->

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "As the player feels inner anger rising, the in-game character gets angry too and starts shouting and smashing things. Then, the player relaxes and the game character calms down and smiles. This is the kind of game control supported by a system demonstrated in a video released today by the Human-Computer Interaction Lab of the University of Udine. The system detects player's emotional state by using physiological sensors to measure player's skin conductance, facial muscles activity and cardiac parameters. It has been used to build gamified relaxation training and stress inoculation training applications."
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+ - Future Airline Safety Instructions will be given by Game Apps->

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "They revealed the existence of their project only to aviation safety specialists at the recent FAA Conference on Cabin Safety in Philadelphia . Now a team of Italian researchers from the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has publicly released the first in a set of aviation safety apps on which they are working. Their mission is to propose novel, first-of-their-kind solutions to a well-known problem in aviation safety: passengers lack preparedness about what to do in aircraft emergencies, and do not pay attention or do not clearly comprehend the pre-flight briefings and safety cards used by airlines to instruct them about safety. So the project is re-inventing safety cards and briefings with new media, turning them into games and apps. The first game they decided to release focuses specifically on the “Brace for impact” position: players can pose the body of their avatar in the 3D airplane cabin and get a personalized simulation of a crash landing . To win the game, you must save your avatar (and yourself)."
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+ - The classic Snake game comes to life in augmented reality

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "Do you remember the classic Snake game on mobile phones? Now a university lab has built a mobile, augmented reality version of Snake that superimposes the game world on the real world to encourage walking. First, the smartphone detects players' position and retrieves the satellite photograph of the area that will be used as a playing field. Then, the player controls the Snake in the game by walking in the real-world, using GPS. A video demo of this 21st century Snake is available on YouTube , while a technical paper with a detailed user evaluation of the exergame is available at this link."

+ - Mindfulness apps can be more effective than traditional meditation methods

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "No scientific studies of the effectiveness of mindfulness apps were available so far, but the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies has now published a research that contrasts an interactive mindfulness app with two traditional, non-interactive techniques (one is the centuries-old meditation in which people imagine their thoughts as passing clouds, the other is a card-based technique) on a sample of novice meditators. The app was not only effective, but it also obtained better results than traditional techniques in terms of achieved mindfulness, perceived level of difficulty and degree of pleasantness. Researchers have thus decided to make it freely downloadable for Android as well as Apple devices. A pre-print version of the research paper is available at this link ."

+ - People become more utilitarian when they face moral dilemmas in virtual reality

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "Critical situations in which participant's actions lead to the death of (virtual) humans have been employed in a study of moral dilemmas, just appeared in the Social Neuroscience journal. The experiment has shown that participants’ behavior becomes more utilitarian (that is, they tend to minimize the number of persons killed) when they have to take a decision in Virtual Reality (VR) rather than the more traditional settings used in Moral Psychology which ask participants to read text descriptions of the critical situations. A video with some of the VR moral dilemmas is available at this link, while the paper can be downloaded at this link."

+ - Attitudes towards time of Facebook users predict Problematic Internet Use

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "A study that has just appeared on the Personality and Individual Differences Journal has linked specific attitudes towards time (TIme Perspective) of Facebook users with their level of Problematic Internet Use, by applying Phil Zimbardo's psychology of time. More specifically, a negative view of the past (Past Negative) and a fatalistic view of the present (Present Fatalistic) turned out to be the two time perspectives that predict pathologic Internet use in Facebook users. A full copy of the paper can be downloaded at this link ."

+ - 3D games are effective for Advanced Life Support training->

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "The new issue of the International Journal of Medical Informatics (September 2013) illustrates a thorough study of the effectiveness of 3D games for Advanced Life Support (ALS) training. The tested game has been used in real ALS courses to train nurses and doctors in dealing with medical emergencies, ranging from trauma to heart attacks, that require ALS procedures.
Results of the published study indicate that nurses and doctors effectively increased their ALS knowledge by playing the game. Moreover, a follow-up retention test conducted 3 months after they played the game showed a significant knowledge retention benefit.
A full version of the journal paper can be downloaded from this link . A short video demo of a level of the tested game is available on YouTube ."

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+ - Learning to help disabled persons by playing a Facebook 3D game->

Submitted by vrml
vrml (3027321) writes "Help! ( https://www.facebook.com/HelpTheSeriousGame ) is a public 3D game on Facebook that teaches (in English and Italian) how to help disabled persons in emergencies in a novel way.
This kind of information was available so far only through the study of printed materials such as the official guidelines produced in different countries by firefighters or civil defense organizations.
In the Facebook game, users can instead test their ability to help in emergency situations through a 3D experience.
The game deals with different kinds of disabilities (physical, visual, and hearing). For each disability, it first provides users with a 3D training gym that allows them to learn the guidelines under the guidance of a virtual firefighter. Then, users move to simulated emergency scenarios in which to apply the guidelines. More specifically, users are faced with simulated events such as an earthquake or a fire, with the goal of helping a disabled person in the evacuation of a building.
The game was created by the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Udine, Italy, in collaboration with the Regional Council of the Associations of Disabled Persons FVG.
A game trailer is also available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZkYXX5hYr0"

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