Tool of Context-Aware Applications for Behavior Change

Empowering individuals with tools that enable them to explore behavior change strategies and actualizing solutions to their uniquely personal needs, throughout their everyday lives, is likely to lead to more robust, personalized, and effective solutions. Based on this, I have been developing a toolkit* that allows for rapid prototyping of simple rule and event-based systems including physical sensing, data storage, and media event components. In designing a toolkit optimized for behavior change inteventions, I aimed to balance between simplicity for ease of use and expressiveness for implementation of diverse user-generated ideas.

*This toolkit adopted a platform that I worked on within the Motivational Environments Research Group directed by Dr. Winslow Burleson.

A suite of tools are integrated in the toolkit. Sensing is provided by an array of devices, including X10 and Insteon home automation components. It integrates wireless speakers, mobile devices, and visual displays in delivering responses such as music, narration, text, and graphical responses. The commercially available Indigo home automation software is employed for communication with hardware, as well as a platform for running applications.

The toolkit uses wireless state-change sensors for detecting use of objects and user location. Simple state-change can often provide credible clues about activity.

The toolkit allows three prompting methods: audio content via wireless speakers, text messages via mobile phones, and appliance control.

With the toolkit, users can build various applications for their own issues. For instance, a person who gets concerned about his tooth brushing at night may build a system that invites him to brush his teeth with a song when he uses the bathroom at night, plays news while he is brushing teeth, notifies when 2 mins have passed, and cheers if he did not skip for the last three nights.

Programming User Interface

The hardware and software architecture of the toolkit allows users to create applications by writing AppleScript codes. Although the tool enables rapid development integrating a variety of technologies, it still requires some degree of programming skills, which limits use by people without programming skills. Thus, intending to lower such barrier for those who have no or limited programming skills, we developed the initial version of a visual programming interface, GaLLaG Strip. In GaLLaG Strip, users define their programs in a linear fashion by using simple if-then conditions, that is, it does not allow nested loops or conditionals.

With this exemplar application, a user hears a sound effect and narration saying “Read instead of TV” when turns on TV. She hears an achievement sound when turns off TV ...

Although our user studies confirmed benefits of simple if-then rules as proposed by the existing research (people naturally utilize them in defining applications), the need to extend the current functionality of GaLLaG Strip was found as there were application ideas that users thought of frequently but could not be programmed. Based on the frequency of use and significance with respect to core behavior change techniques, I identified the following types of rules for eliciting a system response:

  1. When an action continues for a specific duration;
  2. If another action has or has not occurred for specific duration since an action occurred;
  3. If an action has or has not occurred between two absolute times;
  4. When a specific duration passes after an action occurs, a system response is made.

This finding taught me to include logic for checking past behavior, especially in terms of time and frequency of a specific event. To allow composition of these identified rules, a total of nine possible blocks for the condition of the rules were identified (that is, blocks placed above the ‘THEN’ block in the left figure), classified into Objects, Use of Objects, Time, Time Elapsing, and History.

Composition of the Pattern 2 example, “If I have not washed my hands in 10 minutes after coming home, a ‘water’ sound clip plays”


Programming Tool of Context-Aware Applications for Behavior Change

Jisoo Lee, Erin Walker, Winslow Burleson, and Eric B. Hekler
UbiComp 2014 [PDF]

A Tangible Programming Tool for Creation of Context- Aware Applications

Jisoo Lee, Luis Garduño, Erin Walker, and Winslow Burleson
UbiComp 2013 [PDF]

Supporting Self-Experimentation of Behavior Change Strategies

Jisoo Lee
UbiComp 2013 [PDF]