Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quantified Self 2011: Mental World/Breakouts and Thoughts

The mental world stuff is really my bread and butter, so it'll likely be more detailed. Also, some of these are notes from breakout sessions.

Mood tracking
Moodscope apparently has a lot of users, but I don't like it at all. It tries to reduce your mood to a number, and the mood-tracking system is a really painful series of 20 ratings with too many page reloads.
- More interesting is Moodlog: it's freeform, just enter any word(s) you want. Also, you can add colors, which is more fun than it might sound.
- There's also MercuryApp, which I haven't tried.

Also, PACO by Bob Evans (an engineer, not the restaurant) is a system to help you do experience tracking on Android. For example, ask yourself "how energetic are you?" 5x/day. Here's a link; it 403s now but he hopes to open it up this week. This is super exciting; I'd been doing this but PACO is strictly more useful. (I hope the input is still quick, but I imagine it will be.)

Attention tracking: Matt Trentacoste's linked to all the notes about this session. (more detailed notes too.) Cool thoughts:
- a lot of the measurement of this is really productivity measurement
- there's some hope in EEG measurement; Neurosky is working on this
- maybe being able to pay attention is less important than being able to direct attention (e.g. ADHD)
- could we tell when distraction begins?
- there's also hope in psychological tests (SART? N-Back?)

Personal text analysisSlides and notes. Coolest bits:
- in the Nun Study, some folks found that diary entries could predict Alzheimer's by measuring idea density.
- you can measure idea density yourself, using CPIDR.
- the LENA foundation has a baby monitor that monitors your child's development.

Mindfulness: Notes. A lot of ideas here; Frank Chen's main push is that technologies that want to support mindfulness should focus on not only attention, but also intention and attitude. Help the user do the right thing, with the right goal, in the right frame of mind. Cool things:
- Harvard maid study; maids who thought they were getting good exercise lost weight, compared to other maids who did the same thing.
- what happens if you frame Kinect dancing games as exercise vs. framing them as games?

Cognition: Don't try to just "improve mental performance"; it's too vague. However, some good tools:
Anki (spaced repetition)
- Lumosity ("brain training games"- might work for some goals?)
- interestingly, this just came up in Newsweek, and their conclusion was that exercise and meditation were really the only general improving-brain solutions.

Behavior Change and Games: two breakouts. Thoughts mostly here.
- Livifi: an interesting idea. Track ALL the goals. I sure can't do it. (I am not being sarcastic.)

Quantified Self 2011: Physical World/Tools and Systems

Just attended the first Quantified Self Conference, held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. There was so much happening, I can't possibly contain it all in one blog post! I'll split it into "physical world" and "mental world", disregarding the inherent nonsense of these lines.

First, though, let me mention how much good energy there was around the conference. I think this group is really on to something big. People in this group will probably revolutionize the web, their lives, and maybe science as a whole. It's an exciting group to be a part of.

Second, check out The Official Quantified Self Guide to Self-Tracking Tools. This is very cool. I don't think anyone has grouped these things together so effectively.

Okay, on to Self-Tracking Things in the Physical World:

Sleep tracking: Seems like the answer is just "get a Zeo." Fitbit was super popular too. (Wakemate had a table reserved but didn't show up.) A cool note about Zeo: by creating the Zeo, they effortlessly also created the largest sleep dataset in the world, over 500k nights. The second largest is something like 2k nights.

Activity sensingGreenGoose! This was popular. Stickers you can put on anything, with built-in activity detection and wireless communication. The idea is that you can, say, put the "toothbrush" sticker on your toothbrush and it'll track when you're brushing your teeth. I'm not sure what I'd like to track with them, but man, sounds cool.

VideoLooxcie hangs on your ear and records video all the time. You can press a button to save the last 30 seconds. I kind of want to get one of these and wear it all around Asia. Or all the time. Kidding, but just barely.

HRV: Someone mentioned EmWave/HeartMath, a heart-wave-variability entrainment system. I didn't get any details, but sounds interesting.
I have "vision quest/wild vine" scribbled next to the EmWave stuff and do not remember what it means. (see, this WAS an interesting conference...)

HRV/Pulse/Temperature/GSR: Basis. Yep, it's supposed to track all those things. (when it launches.)

Ron Gutman gave an Ignite talk about smiling. Similar to his TED talk. Even if it's hard to act on (should we really persuade people to make fake smiles? how MUCH better does it make you feel?), it was a really good talk. I felt better just watching it.

And then, this isn't really physical-world, but it's more a general platform and doesn't really fit anywhere else. Quantter is for tracking numerical things via existing tweets. Sounds cool; also, Twitter is the new Gmail and/or CSV file for storing bits of data. I want to actually use Quantter for something before I can tell how useful it is. Helpful FAQ.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Measurements of enjoyment in games

How do you tell if someone's enjoying a game?

First, because "enjoyment" is a complicated measure, unlike, say, temperature, we first have to model it. What does "enjoyment" mean? Once we've figured out what we mean by "enjoyment", then we can measure it.
One model is the Affect-Behavior-Cognition model (hey, ABC) proposed by Nabi and Krcmar (2004).
Another model is GameFlow (Sweetser and Wyeth, 2005 (pdf download)), which has 8 parts: concentration, challenge, skills, control, clear goals feedback, immersion, and social interaction. These map relatively well to the 8 components of Flow. (memo to my future self: Pervasive game flow.)
Vorderer, Hartmann, and Klimmt (2003) note that competition is an important part of the enjoyment of video games, although they also admit that there may be other components (challenge, fantasy, curiosity, and others).

Fang et al (2008) put together an 11-part questionnaire to measure enjoyment along the Affect, Behavior, and Cognition axes.
Ravaja et al (2006) catalogued some measures for valence and arousal of emotions: heart rate and GSR for arousal, EMG cheek and around-the-eye muscles for positive emotions, EMG brow muscles for negative emotions. (see the intro; the paper itself is about opponents, which I'm not so interested in)
Mandryk and Inkpen (2004) consider even more physiological measures in their study of opponents: EMG jaw, heart rate variability, and respiratory measures. Again, their particular study is not so interesting to me.
Hazlett (2006) did a more detailed study on the cheek (zygomaticus major) and brow (corrugator supercilii) and found that they did indeed reflect positive and negative events, respectively, in games.
Andersen et al (2011) simply tracked how long people played a game under various conditions and how often they returned.

Seems like the questionnaire measures exactly what people want in games (enjoyment) but through the often-cloudy lens of self-report. The physiological measures seem good for emotional state, while the time-on-game measure is more suited for engagement. All good measures; I'm sure there are many others too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Games: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards

I used to be researching sleep, but now I'm going to switch focus to games and fun. First, I think it'll be useful to look at intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards.

Intrinsic rewards are part of the game or experience. When you learn to ride a bike, all of a sudden you can ride a bike, and that's fun! Extrinsic rewards are outside of the experience. When you do well on a math test and get a good grade, that's an extrinsic reward; the test wasn't fun, but you get a prize afterward.

In short: intrinsic rewards work, extrinsic ones don't. Money (an extrinsic reward) sure doesn't. As usual, Eric Barker provides a nice summary. Recently, Dan Pink and others have expanded this "money doesn't motivate people" theory to "people want autonomy, mastery, and purpose."

In long: it's more nuanced than that; sometimes extrinsic rewards can be turned into intrinsic rewards by reframing the question: "will I?" instead of "I will." And it's possible that some extrinsic motivation actually works, especially if you use "integrated regulation of motivation", where you pick something that you don't enjoy, but you deeply value, and you approach it in your own way. Cal Newport has more. But this integrated-regulated-extrinsic motivation is unlikely to be found in games. Few people explicitly set out to master Halo because it complies with their core values.

So we're often left with games that are intrinsically fun, and "gamified things" that try to slap points and badges on top of otherwise not-fun things. Foursquare is a notable example of the latter, as is Epic Win.

A few game-related papers that point to the necessity of intrinsic motivation in games:
Bruckman (1999) offered the powerful and recurring "chocolate-covered broccoli" metaphor to represent games that combine boring drills with fun interludes.
Laschke and Hassenzahl (2011) express this succinctly in a workshop paper that contrasts patronage (going to a place over and over, becoming friends with the owner; intrinsically rewarding) with Foursquare mayorship (getting points when you "check in"). They conclude: "What is needed is a way to integrate single successes into a meaningful whole – a requirement, which is much better met by meaningful experiences than single rewards."
Habgood, in his doctoral thesis (2007) compared a version of a game where learning was integrated into gameplay with a version where it was external, concluding "... the integrated version is motivationally and educationally more effective than the extrinsic equivalent." (at least, that's what the abstract says. it's 250 pages long.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

CHI 2011 top N, where N > 10

Of course there were more than 10 great papers. I'll give short reactions to papers that I haven't already mentioned. Also, sorry the links are mostly ACM; if you're interested, try a scholar search, maybe the author has put the paper up since then?

Calmness/Emotional States (these are not necessarily related, but I'm lumping them together anyway as I could see some of this research being used in multiple ways)

I Lie to Myself That I Have Freedom in My Own Schedule: Productivity Tools and Experiences of Busyness- busyness is an ethic, a virtue, these days. People like to feel busy. Could we turn "doing nothing" into something? Should we? How can we design tools that address these issues?
GoSlow: Designing for Slowness, Reflection, and Solitude- they made an iphone app to help you chill out, maybe take a nap or something. The audience (and I) are not sold that this is the best way to go, but I'm glad they're working on it anyway!
Affective Computational Priming and Creativity- when you're primed with positive emotions, you're more creative.
Identifying Emotional States using Keystroke Dynamics- they can tell some emotions (whether you're feeling them or not) at mid-70% to mid-80% accuracy, just by the timing of your keystrokes.

Info Visualization and Searching
ChronoViz: A System for Supporting Navigation of Time-coded Data
Evaluating Video Visualizations of Human Behavior- you can parse a video a lot faster (say, to extract data for a study) with an "interaction cube" visualization rather than just watching the whole thing.
Playable Data: Characterizing the Design Space of Game-y Infographics- these are new upcoming and powerful tools to visualize data, but be careful: you can really skew an interpretation of some data with a game.
The Information Flaneur: a Fresh Look at Information Seeking- we should support browsing, and curiously, critically, and creatively exploring data, in addition to Google-like searches. Help people have positive experiences with learning, not just find a quick answer.

MicroMandarin: Mobile Language Learning in Context- vocab flashcards app that brings up airport words when you're in an airport. Advanced-beginner participants say it helps (while beginners need more super-basic words first), and it does lead to more frequent (although shorter) bursts of practicing.

Games and Mastery (not necessarily related, but usually)
Placing a Value on Aesthetics in Online Casual Games- take out sound/music: no effect. Take out animations: people play 20% less. Add extra sub-goals: people play 50% less (yes, less). Also, sweet research method: just post it on Kongregate and thousands of people play it! (if it's any good.)

Persuasive Technology

Mining Behavioral Economics to Design Persuasive Technology for Healthy Choices- Behavioral economics works, even with computers. Simple apple vs. cookie experiments.

Okay there is still some grab bag
This is your Brain on Interfaces: Enhancing Usability Testing with Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy- fNIRS is super-easy to set up and can measure cerebral cortex activity pretty well. Can't get deep-brain stuff though.
Web Workers Unite! Addressing Challenges of Online Laborers- Mechanical Turk: is it dollar-a-day slave labor? Signs point to "maybe so". What can we do about it?

Augmented Reality Flavors: Gustatory Display Based on Edible Marker and Cross-Modal Interaction- Okay, they take a generic bland cookie. Then they put scented air towards your nose and make you wear special glasses that have video overlay so it looks like a chocolate (or green tea or etc) cookie. And it works pretty well. If I were in charge of awards, this would get the "Haha" award, the "WTF" award, and the "Okay but actually that is great" award.
Antiquarian Answers: Book Restoration as a Resource for Design- more questions than answers, but someone's thinking about "When our ipods and kindles get old, can we save them somehow and value their aging instead of throwing them away?"

Really, these feel like they're blurring together a little bit into: "Learning things in procedural memory is fun. It can be even more fun with games. It can also be fun if you gather data about yourself. Maybe one of those can help with behavior change too. Maybe those behavior changes can be to chill out a bit." Hmm hmm hmm.

Friday, May 13, 2011

CHI 2011 Top Ten

Just got back from CHI, the biggest Human-Computer Interaction conference. Blew me away. Top-notch research going on from all corners of everywhere. My current group, the Ubicomp Lab at UW, contributed four amazing papers (SkintennaInGenHeatWaveHaptic Laser), but here's the stuff that I saw from other labs that really knocked my socks off:

Personal Data Management
Overlay streams of data on top of each other. Annotate with a special pen. Zoom through video too. This system does it all. I'd be excited to try this out with some lifelogging data.

"What was that guy's address? Ugh, I typed it somewhere, but I don't remember what file it was in, or anything else that was in it, but I was listening to this song at the time." YouPivot helps you find it.

Visualization system for series of events over time. Example: a hospital. Every patient enters, then gets transferred to ICU, Emergency, or Floor, might get shuffled between them, and then leaves or dies. Visualizing one patient's sequence is easy; LifeFlow helps you visualize all the patients' sequences at once.

Eye tracking, heart rate, skin conductivity, and muscle sensors, a temperature monitor near your mouth, a regular game control, and an awesome looking yeti = Death Trigger. They pulled out some principles for designing such multimodal games. Also, looks fun!

Everyone wants to make games that teach, but nobody knows how. These guys actually did a survey of existing game literature, found that almost nobody evaluates effectiveness, and proposed Applied Behavior Analysis as a framework to actually make educational games that work. Super yes! This may have been the most inspirational thing I saw at CHI.

This was just fun. Games in which you punch a shadow opponent on a wall, play table tennis with 3 people, or hang on a bar. Maybe with their help, Dave and Buster's could actually be fun. (or games-for-exercise could actually work.)

Other Stuff
Recording emotion with words is time consuming and introduces another level of errors. (nobody wants to say "I'm depressed.") So these guys made a pretty thorough set of images and phone app to let you record your emotion by picking a photo.

Programmers know that life is better once you switch from mouse menus to keyboard shortcuts. But it's a hard switch to make. These guys propose to help people switch with "Blur", which is basically the Chrome omnibox (address bar) for Windows.

The only theory/design paper to make my list, this made me think about something I hadn't been thinking about: HCI moves super fast, the medical world moves super slow, so how do you make a paper involving a year-long study and get it published? Answer: skip the year-long study. HCI shouldn't necessarily be concerned about that.

Quick way to learn 1000 French words? Replace their English equivalents whenever you're browsing the web. Sure, there are limitations, but language learning seems to me to be a quick burst of getting some basic fluency and grammar followed by a long slog of learning a bunch of nouns/verbs/adjectives. Maybe this can help you skip that.