LIMBER

Limber refers to an interconnected system of wearable, sensor-enabled components and game-like desktop software, designed to reduce repetitive stress injury among knowledge workers. Regular bodily movement/exercise and maintenance of good posture is rewarded with within a game experience during the course of a workday. Presented here are two design and evaluation iterations that illustrate the utility of the system and identify key design challenges.

Introduction

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are a host of debilitating conditions affecting the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, caused largely by repetitive tasks or maintaining awkward body positions for extended periods. Knowledge workers are prone to such injuries due to prolonged sitting and the physical nature of their work tasks (e.g. repetitive typing). However, RSI can be prevented through strengthening exercises and good posture [1]. The main goals of the Limber project are to produce wearable, sensor-enabled enclosures that monitor body parts susceptible to RSI in knowledge workers, and feed this data into a game-like experience residing on work computers, to incentivize regular bodily activity and proper posture. An emphasis was also placed on the DIY nature of the design, employing simple construction with off-the-shelf materials and components together with open-source code, so that the system could be reproduced and tailored by an individual, thereby ‘helping themselves’. After a brief consideration of related work, this paper discusses two prototypes exploring these possibilities, targeting improved physical activity and posture in the wrist, back, and neck. The development process involved material and form explorations, electronics development, software programming, and user evaluations.

 

Related Work

Previous examples of wearable devices that encourage therapeutic activity through pleasurable feedback include rehabilitation gloves enabling stroke patients to control virtual reality experiences [2], and sensor-driven physiotherapy games for individuals with motor disabilities[3]. Such research tends to focus on acute conditions with significant impairments, while Limber explores the “casual” use of wearable devices for prevention of common office RSIs and postural issues.

Prototype 1: Design

Our first prototype consisted of two wearable components: a pair of arm-mounted enclosures that monitored the amount of wrist flexion, and a torso-mounted enclosure which gathered postural data from the neck and back, both sending sensor data wirelessly to the user’s work computer. Sewing patterns for these enclosures were established early in our design process to ensure ease of reproducibility. The arm enclosures were created from a single piece of elastic fabric, enabling them to be slipped onto a variety of arm diameters. Four commercial stretch sensors, sewn into the fabric directly over the wrist, were used to measure the range and directionality of wrist movement, while an Arduino microprocessor [4] (connected to the sensors via channels of conductive thread) relayed this data to the base station via an XBee radio [5].

The torso enclosure was fashioned from a store-bought “hoodie”, with accelerometers attached to the shoulder blades and accelerometer-gyroscopes positioned over the spine and the neck. Data from the sensors was processed by an onboard Arduino, and transferred to the user’s computer via USB, where simple calculations were applied to detect postural and mobility issues. We prototyped a variety of interactive experiences on the user’s desktop that responded to the sensor data, exploring both positive and negative reinforcements as incentives -- for example, playing increasingly faster drumbeats the longer the user’s wrists remained inactive (negative); transforming the user’s wrist movements into sine-wave music (positive); displaying encouraging and humorous messages on-screen to reward good posture and regular neck movement (positive).

Prototype 1: Evaluation

During a design evaluation of the prototype (a 4-hour testing session with seven researchers from our team as participants), the main concerns expressed were the fragility of wearable enclosures, insufficient responsiveness of the wrist-based stretch sensors, difficulty in mapping movements to variations in sound, and the intrusive nature of the drumbeat feedback. The majority of the testers also felt that an experience involving positive reinforcement, with game-like mechanics and rewards, would provide the most effective incentives.

Prototype 2: Design

For our second prototype, we focused on developing a game-like interactive experience built on an enhanced Limber wearable assembly. The “game” was integrated into the user’s desktop environment and ran in the background while they worked, providing encouraging messages as popups (accompanied by alert sounds) to reward wrist/ neck movements and proper posture, and reminder messages when inactivity or bad posture was sensed. The software also featured a scoring system to reward good behavior (Limber points), and gently punish bad behavior (Unlimber points). An interface displayed the user’s ongoing score, as well as a log of their bodily activity for tracking progress.

The wrist enclosures were redesigned to increase durability while maintaining adjustability, employing a thick felt fabric with velcro-laden straps and loop tensioners to fasten them around arms of various sizes. To improve the responsiveness of the sensor component, we decided to use a single stretch sensor, the end of which was attached to the user’s middle finger via an adjustable tensioner -- the increased tension yielded more accurate readings.

PROTOTYPE 2: EVALUATION

We performed our design evaluation for the second prototype with a group of 4 <blinded>university employees with computer-based occupations. We briefed each tester on use of the system, installed the software on their work computers, then allowed them to interact with the prototype at their desks for 30 minutes, ending each session with a structured interview to ascertain their experiences. A researcher on our team also performed testing over 5 days. All of the testers reported that the Limber system improved their awareness of bad bodily posture and habits (slouching, sustained inactivity) while engaged in work tasks. However, many of the testers also mentioned some discomfort while wearing the enclosures during the session -- the hoodie became too warm , and the tensioner attached to the middle finger became sweaty or abrasive. Some aspects of the system also became distracting to users during work tasks -- the alert sounds accompanying the popup dialogs were sometimes obtrusive, and most users did not habituate easily to the sensation of the arm enclosures. There was also concern that the aesthetic design of the enclosures might place them at odds with the formal dress code of some office settings. Users generally found the scoring system to be an effective incentive for increased movement and better posture, and were excited at the prospect of a more social experience where individuals or even entire office departments could compete with each other for Limber Points.

Future Work

Key areas for future development include further material and form explorations to improve comfort; more modular design of the wearable components to facilitate integration by users into their own office attire; connectivity between Limber systems to enable social play and competition; a game experience less disruptive to users’ daily flow of work; sensor-enabled enclosures for other body parts that play a role in office-related injury.

Conclusion

We have presented the preliminary design and evaluation of a sensor-enabled wearable system for knowledge workers, using body data to drive a game experience that rewards mobility and good posture. Our experiences so far suggest that simple wearable DIY sensor assemblies can be integrated into office work environments to promote injury prevention in an unobtrusive manner, but that comfort, fashion and work protocol remain critical design concerns.

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Limber Prototype
Limber Prototype in Use
Repetitive Movements
Wrist Sensors
Backmounted Sensors
Limber in use at a desk
Limber wrist sensors - version 2
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 8:00pm
Lab Member: 
Derek Reilly
Suzanne Stein
Emma Westecott
Paula Gardner

Limber V2

Limber v2 is a GRAND-funded research collaboration in partnership with Dr Derek Reilly at Dalhousie University. It is a continuation of the Social Body lab wearable project Limber http://research.ocadu.ca/socialbody/project/limber

Current research suggests that persuasive technology, gamification and gameful design can motivate positive behaviour changes in a variety of contexts. Novel technology may provide an opportunity to enhance real-world experiences by introducing game elements that give new motivation to engage in positive fitness practices. Our research asks the question: how can game elements, when inserted in a workplace of teams of workers sitting at desks, provide new motivations for maintaining good posture and for stretching periodically?

The prototype is an interactive ExerGame system called Limber, consisting of a Kinect camera to track posture and body movements, and a corresponding software application. Players will be able to track their own posture and stretching statistics, compare their statistics to their immediate co-workers, and compare their group against a different group of co-workers in the same work environment.

The prototype will first be deployed in a study pilot with members of the Dalhousie Faculty of Computer Science to troubleshoot technical issues and validate details of our study design. The subsequent field study will take place at a workplace where employees are primarily working while seated at a desk in front of a computer. We will exclude anyone with health problems that prevent them from comfortably sitting or doing light stretches. Through analysis of the gathered data, we hope to understand what motivations participants had for interacting with the prototype, and whether Limber provided new motivation for maintaining good posture and for stretching.

OCAD University Graduate Researchers Harjot Bal is funded to produce research for this phase of Limber. Emma Westecott from OCADU will mentor the project at OCAD U.

Resources

Materials and publications reviewed and created over the course of this project will be collected in the library of a group on the academic social bookmarking service zotero.

Reflections on research will be gathered on Tumblr for easy access, populated with links of interest and lengthier reflections on the design of compelling information interfaces.

Project Deliverable Downloads:

In development.

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Friday, August 10, 2012 - 7:15pm
Lab Member: 
Harjot Bal
Emma Westecott

Fetal Alcohol Visualizing

Working with large sets of intricate and comprehensive data, this research takes a highly interdisciplinary approach to dissecting the discourses that surround fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Novel correlations across data collected from stakeholder groups, derived using advanced visual analytics tools, help to better inform new strategies for communicating FASD. The interdisciplinary approach to this project grants the researchers with the ability to employ creative methods of study; the design of striking infographics and innovative simulation technologies will serve the production of provocative public performance in an effort to refresh the dialogue on FASD.

 

Red and green DNA testing visualization
Friday, April 12, 2013 - 3:30pm
Lab Member: 
Paula Gardner
Patricio Davila
Lawrence Kwok
Tim Bettridge
Maggie Chan
Marjan Verstappen
Harjot Bal
Shuting Chang

Take Me With You

Encouraging positive, lifelong habits plays a key part in staying fit and engaged in life. Regular walking can be a protective factor against countless diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer's, anxiety, and depression. Shared activities with family can provide valuable inspiration for those who are not otherwise inclined to exercise and/or tend to self-isolate. This project explores monile fitness games designed specifically to enable seniors and children to play together (or with others), with their particular needs in mind. 

The shared adventure game Take Me with You is intended to encourage physical activity, cognitive stimulation, and social engagement, by using these elements to move the narrative of the game forward. 

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Take me with you banner
Grand Mobile Lab Research - Take me with you article - page 4
Grand Mobile Lab Research - Take me with you article - page 5
Grand Mobile Lab Research - Take me with you article - page 6
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:30pm
Lab Member: 
Deborah Ptak
Martha Ladly
Greg Van Alstyne

Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism

Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism addresses this issue through an interactive mobile platform that allows readers to get a snapshot of the news stories that are being disseminated by mobile "citizen" journalists as compared with professional journalist's syndicated reports. 

This project presents an interactive aesthetic visualization of the Twitter data feed and correlating professional news sources' headlines. 

Sponsor(s): 
Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism Logo
Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism Page 8
Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism Page 9
Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism Page 10
Visualizing the Impacts of Mobile Journalism Page 11
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:30pm
Lab Member: 
Martha Ladly
Greg Van Alstyne
Genevieve Maltais
Jonathan Resnick
Britt Wray

Art and Interactive Projections: ScreenPlay

ScrrenPlay was developed by Professor Elaine Biddiss, core faculty in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and Scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute, together with a group of design students from OCAD University led by Professor Geoffrey Shea. The installation consists of a pressure-sensitive floor comprised of 100 tiles. Calibrated from the microcontroller switches in the tiles, information is fed to a computer which then applies corresponding images to a glass wall from a ceiling-mounted projector. Anyone standing or sitting on the tiles can create elaborate, moving landscapes from the three rotating design motifs: flowers and bubbles, a forest blooming from a geometric grid, and abstract vines and patterns.

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Image of a person being pushed in a wheel chair in front of a blue background
Saturday, February 23, 2013 - 4:30pm
Lab Member: 
Adam Oliver
Alan Lau
Dave Dowhaniuk
Jenifer Harrison
Josh Nelson
Ken Leung
Lucian Timofte
Luodan Xu
Maggie Chiu
Yee Chan
Monserrat Rivera
Stewart Shum

Postcard Memories

This research addresses the potential of mobile technologies for enabling creative and collaborative intergenerational activities between elders with early stage dementia, their peers, family, friends and/or caregivers. It also concerns aspects and barriers of use with mobile technologies for elder participants and their peers. We seek to gain a deeper understanding of narrative storytelling in general, and collaborative digital/physical artifact creation and collection alongside narrative arrangement in particular, with a specific population of caregivers, and associated geriatric outpatients who have mild to moderate dementia and memory loss of the Alzheimer's type.

This study is intended to extend understanding of the effects and benefits to memory, benefits to spoken language, and potential benefits to well-being, socialization and increased interactions with family members, friends, and caregivers, through use of our touchscreen tablet application. The application has both digital and physical outputs: a digital Postcard Memories gallery and book; physical postcards, which can be printed from within the application and mailed through Canada Post ; and a Postcard Memories book, which will allow collected postcards to be arranged and rearranged by the elder and their family members or caregivers into a pleasing narrative format.

GRAND 2014 Research Note Presentation

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Designing the Postcard Memories Application
Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 3:00pm
Lab Member: 
Bryn A. Ludlow
Ana Jofre
Laura Wright
Cathy Chen
David Green
Ruzette Tanyag
Pavika Chintraruck
Jessica Peter
Pei Zhou

Rupture: An Autobiography in Earthquakes

The data visualization creates an analogous bridging of the space between memory and recollection.

"In Rupture I travel from my own cultural and political experience of growing up in Jamaica, through a contemplation of the poignancy within a personal snapshot, to an examination of the fractured process in which our brains separate and later reassemble our past. The seismic movements of the earth are analogous with this process."  -David Green

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Rupture Banner
Rupture: An Autobiography in Earthquakes
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:00pm
Lab Member: 
Martha Ladly
David Green

The CBC Newsworld Holodeck

The CBC Newsworld Holodeck utilizes the GestureTek software system and Microsoft Kinect to sense the user’s gestures, enabling interaction with multi-screen video display. Video data communicates with the gesture-based library through an open-source C++ toolkit, which allows flexibility of video control, animation, and speed optimization. The Kinect searches for the user’s hand; upon detecting the gesture the system calls an action that corresponds to that gesture. The called action selects a video, plays that video, which initiates keywords to populate the screen, or hides them during video playback, enabling focused viewing.

Keyword/phrase selection takes the viewer directly to the selected video clip (enabled by natural language processing technologies), a novel interaction in video browsing, search and display. The Holodeck interface enables gestural interaction, and rich, context-aware browsing and search of the CBC Newsworld ‘big data’ video corpus.

Image of the CBC Newsworld Holodeck
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 3:00pm
Lab Member: 
Martha Ladly
Gerald Penn
Cathy Chen
Bryn A. Ludlow
Ana Jofre
Siavash Kazemian

Mindfulness Technologies: The ACT App

Exploring the potential of mobile technology to aid acceptance and mindfulness therapy outside of the clinic, this interdisciplinary investigation empowers youth suffering from anxiety and depression by collaborating with them design sound and imaged-based applications for mobile devices.  These applications enable youth to externalize their personal sources of anxiety in a manner that reflects strategies they have found successful during acceptance and mindfulness therapy.  Participants will be able to use the applications to practice acceptance and mindfulness therapy during a moment of anxiety outside of therapy; a fresh a creative use of mobile technology to aid a complex and difficult healing process. 

An image from the Mindfulness Technologies: The ACT App
Friday, April 12, 2013 - 3:00pm
Lab Member: 
Paula Gardner
Marjan Verstappen
Lindy Wilkins
Dora Poon
Mike Lovas
Symon Olivier
Fareena Chanda
Heather Nicol