robot, anger

•A team of U.S. researchers created four “cathartic objects” for anger release.
•These robots are designed to be stabbed, hit, smashed, or cursed at.
•While the science supporting catharsis theory is weak, the team believes that these robots may prevent angry individuals from harming other people.

We’ve all been angry at some point, and we all have different ways of dealing with our anger. Some of us choose to listen to relaxing music, while others hit the gym to literally hit a punching bag.

But what if you could take your anger out on a robot (that thankfully can’t hit back)?

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have taken anger management a step further: Non-anthropomorphic “cathartic objects” that allow you to release your anger in the most brutal ways.

Rage robots

The researchers — Michael Luria, Amit Zoran, and Jodi Forlizzi — designed four objects built to handle anger differently. They recently presented their study at the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow.

The first object laughs maniacally, but stops after you smash it against any hard surface repeatedly.

Object number two, a ceramic tile attached to a series of tiny bulbs, lets you insert a note inside it. Smashing it with a blunt object (like a hammer) activates its lights and sounds.

Meanwhile, the third robot is a curious-looking crystal object. Hurl all manner of swear words at it, and watch it light up.

The last one is an elongated pin cushion, sort of. Stab and poke it with sharp objects, and it starts shaking; it only stops when said objects are pulled out from it.

“The chosen prototypes were designed to probe a range of physical interaction, as it is a critical part of cathartic expression,” stated Luria in an interview.

“The prototypes varied in multiple physical aspects: the interaction input (verbal or physical), the output (movement, light or sound), the quality of interaction (instantaneous, continuous, forceful or gentle), and the material the robotic objects are made of (fabric, ceramics, and plastic).”

Take it out on the tech

Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be much scientific evidence to support catharsis theory (the idea that it’s better to ruminate on your anger than to simply ignore it). At best, acting out on one’s anger doesn’t seem to have any significant impact on making a person feel better. At worst, it may make certain people even more aggressive.

Still, conventional wisdom tells us that keeping all that anger bottled up inside isn’t exactly healthy. And for the researchers, that’s more than enough reason to create robotic outlets for anger — which can prevent us from taking out our anger on someone else.

“We don’t want to take our aggressions on other people, but we also frequently don’t let that energy out when we are alone,” explained Luria. “Maybe there is a safe space to express negative emotions with technology.”



Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco

Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.