HEX group studies apps for healthy eating

In one of our research projects we are looking at the design of mobile apps for healthy behaviours. Among others, apps for healthy eating. We are investigating whether a user’s values and personality influences his or her preference for different apps.

To study this we are currently conducting an online survey. We are still looking for a lot of people to fill it in. You will be asked to look at different apps and let us know which one you prefer:

Cool! Take me to the study

Posted in Blog, News, Uncategorized.

Examples from CHI – the premier conference in Human Computer Interaction

This is the 3rd time I attended the CHI conference. As before, it was an intense 6-day experience: inspiring, fun and at times overwhelming. The themes I was looking for this year were healthcare, wellbeing and co-design, and surely there were many interesting talks and panels on these topics. I would like to highlight a couple of the things I encountered that could inspire our work.

Exergames are a rather recent genre of video games that involve vigorous physical activity. Commercial examples are Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution and Microsoft’s Kinect Adventures. These more action-based games require players’ attention, visual-motor and visual-spatial processing skills. Skills that are often limited for children with cerebral palsy (CP), i.e. a group of disorders that affect motor function. Thus, exergames for this group of children are often slow-paced and thus also less exciting. Hernandez et al. however, presented a way to design action-based mini-games for children with CP. They redefined traditional guidelines and make these games playable and fun. As an example the traditional guideline ‘Games should not require precise timing’ was nuanced by: Time-sensitivity is acceptable as long as the level geometry, control scheme and consequences of errors are carefully designed. In a jump and run game they achieved this by e.g. having ramps with high friction and having modest penalties for falling from a ramp or platform. The games were controlled by the children with exercise bikes, a joystick and an A-button and could be played solo or in groups. What I liked about this project is the positive approach pushing the limits of what the children could do, instead of focusing on what they cannot do. Furthermore, the close contact with the children and interdisciplinary team work in a 1-year participatory process yielded games that were enjoyable and playable by the children and can overtime increase their health.

While exergames can be for a large range of people, there were other examples of work focused on people with specific conditions, e.g. bipolar disorder, or age groups, e.g. children or seniors. Examples focused on seniors with conditions included tools/games to enhance fall or stroke rehabilitation and designing for people with dementia.

Personhood & Dementia – One of the more beautiful work presented at CHI was the work by Wallace et al. presenting a design-led inquiry into personhood in dementia. By deeply engaging with a person diagnosed with dementia and her husband, the researchers developed a rich understanding of the experience of personhood in dementia and how digital jewellery can be designed to enrich this experience. More traditional accounts present the development of dementia as loosing the self leading to, in the extreme, unbecoming a person. In these accounts self is seen as something possessed by an individual. However, recently in several sciences a more relational view of self has been adopted. Recent theories claim the self as constructed through reflection, storytelling and dialogue. To distinguish clearly between individualist and relational approach, the authors use the term personhood to refer to the later. They explain “Personhood can … be seen as something internally changing and externally nurtured through relational and social contexts, continually constructed by the peculiarities of experience and relationships.” In their work they use empathic design probes that were carefully crafted by the researchers and completed by the participants. Such probes created space for dialogue around such concepts as personal pride, sense of achievement, the meaning of home, talents and abilities, etc. After long-term engagement and dialogue through the probes the designers/researchers created a set of final jewellery objects including a cloud watcher necklace, a dress brooch and a jewellery box for the brooch that could record and play back sounds. These objects were not simply meant for reminiscing the past, but create references to joyful and meaningful moments of the participant’s lives. By that the authors “sought to create jewellery that was as much about current and future experience as it was about the past, and pieces that could be nurtured by Gillian and the nexus of people close to her.” For a visual experience of what the designers/researchers created see this video: http://vimeo.com/65130740

Participatory and co-design are promising design methodologies represented in the projects above. Especially, the last project emphasises the meaning of engaging with participants over long-term and using empathic probes that are thought-through, crafted with care, personal and invoke a need to be completed by the participants. They represent “meeting in the middle – a way for a co-creative endeavour among equals who are respectful of each other.” In another paper the same authors describe in depth how design probes provide more than simply inspiration for designs but enable shared understandings, specifically of challenging and intimate aspects of lived experience.

Other interesting works presented at CHI related to participation in design processes focused on (1) using living labs for long-term user involvement and (2) how to configure participation and (3) what happens when the research ends. While the authors of (1) present their lessons learned from setting up a living lab (concerning the selection of participants, maintenance of their motivation, establishment of a trust, and the coordination of collaboration), the authors of (2) call for “for a more nuanced understanding about how control is shared between researchers and participants, for the initiators and beneficiaries to be more explicitly revealed and for there to be a broadened and more reflexive understanding regarding the forms which participation can occur in.” Equally important to configuring the participation and facilitating it throughout the process, is to consider what happens after a long-term participatory research ends. The authors of (3) present guidelines for planning and executing technology handovers when conducting research with communities. These include among others managing expectations, creating skills in communities to maintain and develop technologies themselves, and allocating more time in projects to plan the handovers.

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Positive Design Day at TU Delft

Today the Delft Institute of Positive Design was officially launched at the faculty of Industrial Design of our university. Aim of the institute is to bring together people to share and create knowledge to support designers in their attempts to design for human flourishing.

Positive Design does not work according to the formula that negating something negative is positive, but it starts out with the positive. Based on positive psychology questions such as What are the determinants of well-being?; what are the effects of different emotions on well-being?; how can people increase their happiness?; Or what are the effects of well-being on health and behavior? are in the focus and their answers can lead to new design opportunities and inspiration.

The Positive Design Day was packed, among other things, with inspiring speeches, a panel discussion (with Marc Hassenzahl, Andrew Shoben and Marije Vogelzang) and exhibitions of experience design projects.

IMAG1749-1  IMAG1751  IMAG1757-1

Even the food was designed to give a positive experience!



The Positive Design approach is surely something that our work in healthcare and support of senior citizens could benefit from. Creating technology with a positive lens by building on end-users’ strengths and designing for positive experiences and human flourishing (for all ages) should be one of our goals!


Posted in Blog, News.

Reaching out to the community

We at HEX are taking research out of the lab and directly to the people. Usually when engineers try to develop a new idea, it is easier to work on it in isolation without involving many others. This way it is easy to be in control and have as few distractions as possible. For me as a User Experience designer, I have been proud that my work always takes the user into account in the design process. In my field, we start by consulting the users to try and understand what they need and what the underlying problems are. After creating our concept of a solution back in our lab, we invite the users to come test our solution and listen to their feedback.

To me, this ‘user centered approach’ was as good as it gets. However, after working with HEX for a while now, I saw how we can do even better. Instead of working in the lab and inviting the users to come to us, we now go out of the lab and meet the people in their own environments. We also consider the users to be our co-creators (it is even in the HEX slogan ‘co-creating intelligent health innovation’). Together, we think about ideas and solutions that perfectly fit the user’s needs. It is then our challange as engineers to make it happen using technology, some hammers, and a bit of luck.

It is also important to show the community the work we do and let them know that our goal is to benefit society. From talking to locals, turns out they feel a disconnect with the big technical university in their city. We therefore engaged in a number of local projects like:

We are getting involved in all these activities and putting our time and resources in them in order to: establish communication channels, build trust, break barriers, …and most of all because it is fun! It has so far been very enjoyable work that is also for us a fresh change from traditional research. And the reaction from the public is very encouraging. So if you are in the neighbourhood, keep your eyes open and you may come across one of our activities.

Posted in Blog, HEX group aims.

New Year’s anti-resolutions

So, new year, new game, eh? Well, while everyone is coming up with new year’s resolutions, that will be broken soon enough anyways, why not come up with a list of things that we will or should not do in 2013? What are our anti-resolutions as HEX members, researchers, user experience experts, or … humans?

Let’s make a start…

Don’t claim that you know what users (in particular the ageing population) need!
Don’t categorise all people over 65 as old, elderly, or whatever other word you come up with!
Don’t tell potential co-designers that we would like to “do experiments” with them!
Don’t assume that every 65+ person wants to be involved in or even cares about our research!
Don’t start with a problem!

Now it’s your turn! What should we NOT do in 2013?

Posted in Blog, HEX group aims. Tagged with , , , .