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University of Washington research scientist Elin Björling, pictured two years ago with a robot from the EMAR project. (University of Washington Photo)

Teenagers accustomed to growing up with technology and even conversing with various forms of it should take comfort in research being conducted by the University of Washington.

As public radio station KNKX reports, researchers in the school’s Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering are looking to determine whether robots can be used to measure stress levels in teens. The aim of Project EMAR — which stands for Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot — is to assess students’ moods in the moment rather than waiting for a stress survey to be filled out after the fact.

“A lot of the teens are telling us they don’t have an outlet,” research scientist Elin Björling told KNKX. “They really don’t have an outlet — so that’s one easy thing we can do is provide them with a safe and comfortable outlet for them to share stuff.”

Boxy robot prototypes have been developed with design input from teens, who, KNKX notes, seem to be more comfortable with WALL-E-style robots than humanoid-style bots that can be perceived as more threatening. (This might not be helping.)

A 2016 UW story also reported on the project and said data collected from the robots is aggregated and kept anonymous.

Björling told KNKX that she hopes one day “the robots could also be used to help students manage their stress with quick tips for calming techniques.”

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