Using sensors and vibration motors to encourage healthy behavior.

Team: Joyce Ker, Luke Simon
Scope: Reactive Spaces (Physical Computing)
Role: Ideating for the concept and final design, Researched sensors and outputs, Soldering and working on the wiring, Helped with the code
Project Brief

With an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, more health issues are arising. These health issues cannot be addressed through exercise, but through sitting less. We wanted to explore how we could take subtle information from the environment and use it to give peripheral reminders for the user to sit less. 
Final Product

We created BuzzButt, a cushion that can be placed in any environment to give gentle ambient reminders for the user to get up. It uses a pressure sensor to sense when the user is sitting and analyzes how long they have been sitting. The vibrations start after the first 30 minutes and progressively get stronger every consecutive 30 minutes the person is sitting. With 12 miniature vibration motors and one large vibration motor buzzing embedded in the cushion, BuzzButt can become very persuasive. Encouraging people to periodically get up and take a break when they have been sitting too long. 
This cushion can be placed on any chair or surface that the user is sitting on while they are studying.

Since this was our first experience with physical computing, we first explored the sensors and outputs available to us in order to brainstorm ideas.  Once we figure out the general idea we had iterated through our design, exploring different types of input we could gather. We also explored different types of output we could use that was ambient and could be used in a communal study area. We also wanted to make sure that we addressed people's need to focus and would only give reminders when the user was not busy.
We wanted the system to be used in a way that would not disturb others, we went to Hunt Library to observe people studying.
Moving Forward

We were really limited in what we were able to do. Neither of us had ever worked with hardware prior to this project. Although Luke had a CS background, we had to learn Processing and Arduino while trying to debug hardware issues. We also faced difficulties with  different technologies not being accurate enough or accessible (computer vision, eye tracking, heart rate monitors, etc.) This project however was a great introduction into the space of physical computing.

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