When your boss has passed deadline for getting some work done, you can feel the stress building. At some point you realize you are far from the finishing race. What do you do next when you are just about to explode like a dynamite? I bet, you pound hard on keyboard keys, press mouse buttons hard multiple times, move it round and round in an indefinite path and what not!
What if your keyboard can alleviate that stress and get back your derailed thoughts on track, thereby helping you be productive and prove punctual at work? Certainly, you could make your boss and yourself happy with the work output then!
Appreciate the efforts of Microsoft Research team, headed by Mary Czerwinski. The team looks set to have designed a prototype of software that would alleviate stress endured by people on a daily basis in the workplace. The tool, Microsoft believes would have the ability to recognize when computer users are stressed and help them reduce their frustration and prevent a large variety of negative health conditions associated with chronic stress by alerting them right away.
This, thinking rests on the logic that if a person knows, for instance, that during the last week s/he experienced more stress than usual, then, the person could gain more awareness and incorporate some temporary behavioural changes by reducing unnecessary stressors. The tool therefore, if not much, to an extent help in circumventing stressful situations by recommending some interventions.
Nonetheless, the team understands measuring stress non-invasively and continuously at work is not as easy as it appears and remains an open challenge. So, the research experiment involved the possibility of using a pressure-sensitive keyboard and a capacitive mouse to discriminate between stressful and relaxed conditions.
A first step in this direction was measuring the intensity of each keystroke and thus, the stress since under stress we are bound to press mouse button or hit keys hard. The concept appears promising and hence we wish the outcome of the exploration be successful and beneficial in reducing stress, as intended.
A lot of keyboards actually have the capability to recognize pressure data, Czerwinski explains. But not too many of them are able to make use of that knowledge.” In order to test user behavior, our team gave subjects very difficult tasks while subjecting them to irritating, loud noises that made them feel stressed out and under pressure. All the while, researchers measured subjects’ keyboard activity.
“People just can’t humanly be 100 percent on and focused and attentive all day at work. If you were focused 24/7 at work without ever taking a break, you would just be chronically stressed. So, there’s something to be said for allowing your workers/team to have those highs and lows because they need them. You’ll see better creativity, better decision-making. The rhythm of work is a natural one,” says Czerwinski.
Mary’s research focuses primarily on the large displays, novel information visualization, the effect of notifications while multitasking, and reminder systems. Her background is in visual attention and user interface design. She holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology.
Also see how to sit in front of computer.