Fizzees – Kinesthetics Interfaces for Health

NESTA Futurelab is showcasing their prototype reseach project called Fizzees “..that enables young people to care for a ‘digital pet’ through their own physical actions. In order to nurture their digital pet, keep it healthy and grow, young people must themselves act in physically healthy ways.”

The Fizzees project aims to encourage young people (aged 10 and 11) to undertake greater amounts of physical activity whilst developing a better understanding of the constituent parts of a healthy lifestyle. This will be attempted through the use of a dual sensor device that accurately measures heart rate and accelerometer data, and a complex scoring system that equates the maturation process of the digital pet with the recommended levels (and types) of physical activity for young people.

The prototype accurately measures the player’s physical activity, which is then represented visually in the form of a virtual pet (a Fizzee) ‘living’ on a wristworn device. The digital pet’s appearance changes depending on the activity levels of the player, and as they investigate the best way to nurture their digital pet, they discover how to best nurture their own physical wellbeing.

In addition to the wearable technology, a website provides the opportunity for players to compare their Fizzee with others, to swap suggested activities and to find out about other aspects of healthy lifestyles, such as healthy eating. A further important part of the website is for players to interrogate their health data in a variety of forms to investigate their past activity rates and to see how they have developed over time.

And their list of design goals

* the potential of new technologies to promote greater physical activity and healthier behaviours in young people
* whether young people are motivated to nurture an external representation (avatar) of their health through engaging in real-life physical activity
* whether this external representation encourages/motivates young people to engage in greater amounts of physical exercise
* whether developing an understanding of the rule system governing the external representation improves understanding of healthy lifestyles
* if the ability to review changes in the ‘health’ of an avatar and to compare this with the health of other avatars leads to engagement in greater amounts of physical exercise
* to what extent do young people transfer nurture of an external representation of their health (avatar) to nurture of self.

Why do I blog this? Firstly, I’m interested in figuring out, conceptually, the distinctions between micro-mobile and macro-mobile activities. Something that’s micro-mobile might be articulations that are more close to the body — moving arms and such, whereas macro-mobile are larger scale movements (“motility”) of individual or larger social formations. There hasn’t been a whole lot of attention to the micro-mobile, especially as it relates to the design of interfaces, actions and activities of devices or how attention and point-of-view is articulated through body movements. This kind of project, Fizzees, pays attention, at least, to the micro-mobile, within the fitness/kinesthetic domain of research.

I like the idea of objects that have some sensibility to them — characters — and tie those characteristics to things that are compelling to the user provides, presumably, a point-of-entry for the user to become engaged. So, the idea here is that, like Nintendogs or tamagotchi it’s “play” so you’re motivated by a sense of enjoyment or satisfaction in achieving a goal — all the while you’re exercising! Okay..maybe. But, the challenge is topical — the statistics keep rolling in on the declining nutritional and physical health of youth, at least in the United States where we’re soaked in cholesterol and fat. There’s also a systemic educational problem here — kids, in my humble and unsupported opinion, have no critical skills when it comes to making choices about what they eat!

Thinking about this reminds me of Piedmonsterz.

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