Thursday, July 16, 2009

Using Interactivity to Fight Teenage Obesity

In, Mike Cassidy recently did a story on Hopelab, a nonprofit technology incubator in Redwood City. Hopelab is working on a unique idea to reduce teenage obesity.

Hopelab built gDitty, a product that grew out of an interest in combining technology games with health care. Philanthropist Pam Omidyar came up with the vision when she started HopeLab in 2001.

The idea of gDitty appears - as is the case with all good innovations - quite simple. Cassidy reports that gDitty is an accelerometer-based device that kids can carry in their pocket or clip on their clothes. The gDitty measures and stores data on any moderate to vigorous movement. The data is then uploaded to a Web site where kids now testing the device can see how their exertion is increasing or decreasing. They can also compare their scores with other users (identified by screen names) across the country.

And kids can cash in points for prizes, such as iTunes or Amazon gift cards.Because the gDitty measures all significant movement, kids rack up points for walking, climbing stairs or doing household chores.

Children in test groups increased their daily activity by 35 percent, the company reports.

Ingenuous, isn't it? What I find most noteworthy about this product idea is that it exploits interactivity in the teenager's natural environment. To provide input to the program, the user has to do nothing special, just move about as usual.

This is a point to note for web designers, presentation makers, e-learning developers and other dialog creators. Blend interactivity naturally into the environment of your target audience - be it a blog, a web page, a slide deck or an online course - and the audience will love it. For example, if you want to poll your audience in the middle of a presentation, embed the poll in your PowerPoint. If you wish to encourage conversation amongst site visitors, have a discussion area right there on the web page. Whenever possible, avoid switching to another application for polling, or sending the web site visitor to another page for discussions. Preserve context, and interactions become more natural and meaningful.

1 comment:

  1. It’s amazing how gDitty is addressing the problem of obesity among kids. I can see how "interactivity" plays a major role in solving this real life problem.

    I look forward to hearing more such applications where interactivity is at the core of the solution and naturally fits into the scenario.