I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.

Posts tagged ‘health’


Visualizing Your Everyday Data

The Microsoft Garage hosted Everyday Data UX Hackathon last month posing the challenge to create an interactive visualization of data that surrounds us in our everyday lives.

We are always producing data; with the pervasiveness of wearables, we can collect so much information about ourselves to monitor, maintain, and improve our health. We looked at existing quantified self tools like Fitbit, Jawbone’s Up and the Nike FuelBand, which all visualize results of users’ actions but in very discrete bits of data that do not provide mid- to long-term perspectives, nor do they allow easy correlations to one to understand how to adapt or change behaviour. What if the data from those sources could be tied into dynamic and reactive visual documents to reflect, in real-time, how adjusting your behaviour could directly impact your life?

We set out to build a visualization that bridges the gulf between reflection and execution. We determined three main problems to tackle in order to achieve this goal: 1) data heterogeneity (how can we combine data of multiple dimensions to make correlations?); 2) macro overview vs micro details (how can we drill in to details and navigate our data points over time?); and 3) emotional design for motivation (how can a visualization motivate people for behavioural change?)


We explored many visualization methods to combine different dimensions of data. Metrics we were interested in were number of steps, activity level, hours of sleep, calories burned, number of floors climbed, etc. We used radar charts to summarize a person’s activities over a day, where each dimension is measured along a different axis originating from the same point. This produces a unique shape that can be overlaid on previous days’ activities to compare how you’re doing over time or it can be overlaid over a goal shape you’ve set. We also enabled detailed drill-downs to view a timeseries charting a single metric over a longer period of time, which can also be compared with other measures (e.g. calories consumed vs calories burned.)


We also proposed an aesthetic, glance-able lock screen that show’s your day’s abstract shape. Live tiles on your phone can also who you a summary of your day’s progress through an easy to digest visualization.


Our design struck a fine balance between data art and raw data with a visualization combined with aesthetics that is not only functional in correlating your multiple activities but making it easily understandable and motivating people to adjust their behaviour. For future development, we’d like to look at plugging in different data sources (currently we’re only using Fitbit data), increasing interactivity like enabling manipulation of one dimension to see its impact on another aspect (eg. can increasing step count improve sleep quality), and providing smart inferences to make the data more actionable.



CASCON 2009 Wrap-Up

The CASCON conference wrapped up last week so here’s a bit of a summary of a few more interesting talks and workshops I attended.

Technology of Google Wave

Alex Nicolaou, Mobile Engineering Manager at Google, presented an inter

esting keynote about Google Wave. He introduced the concept and the idea behind Wave for those who were not familiar with it. He talked about some cool product features I didn’t know about such as grammar-based spell check that can be implemented for various other languages (and perhaps even for programming languages?), uploading photos to create a shared album and access control to different parts of the Wave and private annotations. In terms of platform, robots and gadgets can be added to and embedded in Waves for added interactivity and extended functionality.

As someone who has previewed Google Wave and had been initially confused with the entire application, I posed the question: The current email platform is very simple and easy to use, but using this new paradigm of combining chat, email and Google docs all into one, there seems to be mixed reactions so far. How does Google envision the widespread adoption of the application when the user experience is complex and confusing?

Alex explained that Google didn’t predefine specifics on how one can or should use Wave. Since it does so many things, there are many possibilities in the patterns of usage and behaviours that will emerge. The most interesting uses would be the unexpected activities that were not initially designed for that can arise. I later found a site that lists a wide variety of possible use cases in different contexts, so it will be exciting to see what can come out of Google Wave.

Sensor-Based Support of Clinical Contexts in Hospitals

This engaging workshop was conducted by Mark Chignell, director of the Interactive Media Lab at the University of Toronto. He introducted the use of sensors as a tool in facilitating smart interactions to understand context and situations of our environment so that humans can work smarter, not harder. Smart interactions for health care is significant because of the criticality, complexity and richness of data within the sector. For example, using sensors to identify problematic clinical contexts can provide decision support, simplify tasks, and improve doctor/patient interactions. We had a guest scientist/physician, Dr. Jacques Lee, from Sunnybrook Hospital participate in the discussion, which was quite valuable in understanding the current processes and problems and gaining feedback about idealized scenarios and user study evalutions presented by IML researchers.

Dr. Lee presented an interesting topic that he specializes in: sensing and preventing delirium in the emergency department (ED). Delirium is an acute brain failure that is preventable, common, and is yet easy to miss and lethal. Approximately 30-35% of patients develop delirium as they remain immobile in the ED, but many of these patients are sent home because the condition was never detected by the doctor. Delirium can usually be detected by sensing abnormal extremes (hyperactivity or inactivity) and by testing direct cognitive tasks. Accelerometers attatched to the thigh or behind the ears to sense hyperactive motion are possible solutions for indicators. Questions of practicality and acceptance then must be considered including the visual appearance and obtrusiveness.

Overall the workshop delved into some interesting discussions between designers, researchers, healthcare specialists and technologists regarding the future of sensor-based technologies that can be used to improve current healthcare processes and human-computer/human-human interactions.


Traveller Safety Net


Focusing our concept direction on the idea of the “safety net”, we provide the traveller a sense of security that they are connected back home and have medical records tracked and stored with him or her. This idea stems from insights acquired from interviews detailing situations where even the most adventurous traveller wanting to explore on his own can feel terrified in medical emergencies, particularly, when he has trouble communicating his situation or understanding his medical condition. I have personally found myself in this situation too in a foreign country and have felt the panic of not only trying to communicate with the local hospital staff, but also trying to connect with family back home.

Our direction will be exploring the idea of tracking the history of travel locations and medical/physiological data in order to address the health concerns of travellers while maintaining a connection with people back home.