CHI2006 Student Design Competition

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As last year, I'm helping jury the entrants for the CHI 2006 Student Design Competition. I have to say, this is one of the more engaging jurying gigs I’ve had in my brief career of doing such things. It’s like teaching, only you skip right to the final project. Seeing the oftentimes bright and thoughtful designs that students come up with for addressing this or that particular challenge is eye-opening.

We invite students to address the following design challenge:

In recent years, nutrition and health are increasingly reported as a problem facing many nations. The World Health Organization states that “malnutrition covers a broad spectrum of ills, including under-nutrition, specific nutrient deficiencies, and over-nutrition; and it kills, maims, retards, cripples, blinds, and impairs human development on a truly massive scale world-wide”. Specifically dealing with over-nutrition, the World Health Organization reports the global percentage of obesity in adults is 6%. The US Department of Health and Human Services survey reports 30.5% of adults over 20 years of age in the US are considered to be clinically obese, and approximately 300,000 adult deaths in the US each year are attributable to unhealthy dietary habits and physical inactivity or sedentary behavior (US Weight Control Information Network). Over-nutrition and poor exercise habits are reported to be linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, gall bladder disease, osteo-arthritis, sleep apnea and some forms of cancer. US employers currently lose more than $12 billion per year due to the consequences of obesity, which include increased healthcare utilization, increased absenteeism, as well as elevated health and disability insurance premiums. A UK government report estimated that the national cost of obesity and its consequences in 2002 was over £2.5 billion. A government public health white paper published in the UK in 2004 set out a number of recommendations, including health advice to be made available over the phone, internet and digital TV.

We invite student teams to design a service for personal monitoring of diet, exercise and health for individuals. Solutions need not, but could, address certain groups with specific health needs. Solutions could address educating consumers about processed and pre-packaged foods, or could address teaching children about diet and exercise. Alternatively students could address the needs of a sub-group suffering from some form of malnutrition.

Why do I blog this? One reason is that I’ve been too busy (blech..) submitting to conferences, sketching prototype projects, reviewing papers and doing up research proposals to do much blogging. The other reason is that this particular design challenge — broadly around addressing health, nutrition and fitness issues — is something in which I’m quite interested. I’ve been trying to tie the mobile experience design into this area by thinking about mobility, motility and kinesthetics — no-brainer ways to get bodies moving rather than slouching in front of the TV..or in front of the computer. I think that’s one of the reasons why I got a stand-up desk! It’s more effortless to become mobile — you don’t think twice about “getting up” and moving.

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