UTA Researchers Developing Anger Technology to Help Combat Domestic Violence

A team of researchers at UT-Arlington is working to develop new technology that can tell a person he or she is getting angry before they realize it.

If they're successful, they say this could be a game changer for domestic violence prevention – a topic in which Dr. Anne Nordberg has a keen interest.

"The cost to [domestic violence] victims is incalculable," said Nordberg, who is a professor of social work at UTA and a member of the research team.

Their goal is to create a wearable device that could send a signal before an outburst takes place.

"Not only does that help offenders learn more about their own behavior when it comes to emotion, but it could help the people around them – their children, their spouses, their partners – potentially warning them," Nordberg said.

But before they can do that, engineering professor Dr. J.C. Chiao has to figure out how you teach a computer to detect anger.

"So this is a very complicated because we're talking about recognizing emotion from brain signals," said Chiao, who is also a member of the research team.

The team is looking for signals the brain sends as a person gets angry, hoping to discover some kind of pattern, which they could then digitize.

"What we're thinking is if we can detect a signature – somebody is about to get angry – that will ring your phone or ring your Apple Watch to remind you to calm down," Chiao said.

They're also working with faculty members in the psychology and education departments.

It's not easy or fast work – but then again, most worthwhile breakthroughs aren't.

"That's the way research is done properly – slowly, one step at a time, carefully," said Nordberg.

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