But the conclusion is that the technology needs to be more fine-tuned. Emotional healing and even physical healing, to an extent, have a subtle connection with the human touch. That is why when we try to console someone in her grief or pain, we unintentionally touch her. Even in clinical practice, touch has been acknowledged to have a role in improving health outcomes . In the age of modern technology adapting to the needs of modern medicine, relational agents can be considered as the best interface between technology and humans. Relational agents have been defined as computer agents used in “healthcare applications” and “designed to establish long-term, social-emotional relationships with people” . This study is an attempt to understand the importance of empathic touch by relational agents by comparing the inferences of three research papers on the same and related topics.
The first study under scrutiny was carried out by Bickmore, et al., which analyzed the use of a relational agent which is designed in such a way that it physically touches its users “in synchrony with speech and other nonverbal communicative behavior” . Functioning of this agent, named, “touch but”, as a device that hospital patients can hold on to, while they are in hospital beds, is the topic of examination in this paper . This device is able to sense communication signals like squeezing, stroking or pressing hands and respond to these signals in an empathetic way . A speech-based dialogue system is also part of this agent which consoles, pieces of advice and give information to the user . The inferences of a primary study, which examines the capability of the “agent to communicate effectively using only the touch actuator” and another study which uses “touch”, “animated face” and “synthetic speech” all together are compared by these researchers . How each of these communication elements rates as effects, as felt by the users are then examined .