New project studies interaction and emotions in working environment

Tekes is funding the project studying interaction at work among increasing technology.

"Technological developments are fundamentally changing the work environment and the role of people at work.  Once everything that can be automatised has been automatised, the work done by humans will become increasingly focused on the things machines cannot do,” says Katri Saarikivi from the Cognitive Brain Research Unit, who heads the new project entitled “Quantifying Human Experience for Increased Intelligence Within Work Teams and in the Customer Interface."

"One of the most human work duties is interaction with others, and one of the most important work skills is empathy," she adds.

However, current interaction technologies do not yet sufficiently meet the needs of the people who use them.

"The main deficiencies of these tools have to do with the factors that define functional interaction between people: shared contexts, synchronisation and, above all, efficiently conveyed emotion information. This prevents empathy, makes misunderstandings common, decreases the efficiency of shared problem-solving, and prevents cooperation from becoming the best it could be," Saarikivi explains.

The goal of the research project is to generate new information about the mechanisms of efficient interaction. It will create opportunities to enhance digital and face-to-face human interaction and enable the use of emotional information in the design of services, customer experiences and applications.

The research will be conducted in real-world work situations, e.g., by studying interaction in distributed work teams, in virtual reality environments or between a doctor and patient. The study will use the latest emotion technologies, such as biosensors and machine vision.

Coordinated by the University of Helsinki, the project also involves Aalto University and the University of Oulu. The total project budget is approximately €1.5 million, of which the Tekes funding for the University of Helsinki constitutes approximately €430,000, for Aalto University, €250,000 and for the University of Oulu, €190,000.

University of Helsinki participants include Valtteri Wikström, Tommi Makkonen, Mari Tervaniemi, Minna Huotilainen and Silja Martikainen from the Cognitive Brain Research Unit. Aalto University representatives are Professor Teemu Leinonen from the Department of Media and his research group as well as Jari Saramäki, professor of complex systems research. The University of Oulu is represented by Professor Matti Pietikäinen and Professor Guoying Zhao and their group from the Centre for Machine Vision Research.

The consortium also features ten corporate partners: Reaktor, Wunder, IF, Mehiläinen, Fondia, Fira, Avaus, Affecto, Elisa and Wörks.

Contact: Katri Saarikivi, tel +358 443045897