With online maps and GPS in our phones, it’s gotten a lot easier to record where we plan to go and where we’ve gone walking, running, or cycling. As a side effect of recording, we can also share our routes with others. Information on others’ routes can be surprisingly valuable, when you go to a new place, start a new activity, or just need some variety. I’ve found the MapMyWalk/Run/Ride family of sites to be very helpful for that. If you enter an address or city, it pulls up nearby routes that other people have mapped.
In the Behavior Change Category
Mobile adventure walks is an iphone app in beta. Someone authors a “walk”, which is like a tour with waypoints. You follow the yellow brick road on a map on your phone, using GPS. At each waypoint, there’s a multiple choice question that you can answer by looking around– forces you to actually go there, and to notice interesting things about your surroundings. Informally, they have already found that people who author tours then want to get their friends and family to take them, which gets them walking. It seems like a nice little tool to make taking walks a little more fun, for the crowd who aren’t yet “exercisers”. They’ve tried it in suburbs, with positive response, so you don’t need to have sites of great public interest at the waypoints for it to be fun. A related idea is scvngr, which has challenges that you can only do at specific locations, so you move around in order to get to the places where you can do them.
Keith Hutchings told me about his work on imoveyou.com (nee GetUpandMove.me). It was a platform for making microchallenges to your friends (I’ll do five pushups if you’ll dance to two songs), sort of a fitness version of the community-service oriented pledgebank.com. It appears to be down now, but perhaps I can analyze some of their old log data. Their founder Jen McCabe has now moved on to co-found HabitLabs, which has a new app bud.ge, in the works, which I might profile later.
HealthPer is another gamification of health site (games, points, rewards, challenges and competitions).
In the Judgment/Decision Making Category
CareCoach is an iPhone and Android app that helps you prepare for a doctor’s visit collaboratively with family members (preparing a list of questions to ask), and then takes an audio recording of the visit and lets you share it with friends. It also lets you listen in advance to recordings of strangers’ exam room visits, so that you can be better prepared for what to expect, and therefore process your own visit better. It sounds very promising.
In the Social Support Category
glu is a community for type 1 diabetes patients and their families, in closed beta right now. You identify yourself with a attributes and it tries to match you with similar others, if I recall correctly from the presentation a few days ago now.
At the Health 2.0 Conference, I’ve been scouting for companies and apps that are using social elements to promote health and wellness. Here’s what I’ve found so far, on stage, in the exp, and from random conversations.
Q: What happens when Quantified Self meets Online Communities and Social Networks?
A: The people around us, both friends and strangers, make us healthier and happier.
It’s getting a lot easier to track our health-related states (weight, blood pressure, glucose, moods, disease symptoms, etc.) and our health-related behaviors (smoking, food intake, drugs and medications, exercise, sleep, etc.) Reflecting privately on our traces can help us make good judgments (e.g., deciding whether to exercise in the morning or at night to improve sleep?). Reflecting privately on our traces can also help us make behavior changes that are hard to stick with (e.g., eating less; stretching regularly).
Selectively sharing some of these traces can be even more powerful than reflecting on them individually. It can help us make better judgments about medicines and other treatments to try, by learning from other people’s experience instead of just our own. It can provide inspiration, accountability, support or reminders that enhance our personal behavior change efforts. And it can provide psychological support that reduces anxiety, relieves loneliness, and buoys spirits, thus directly enhancing well-being even without any changes in treatments or behaviors.
Not all sharing will have such positive effects, however, and that’s what makes this space so ripe for experimentation. There are lots of clever innovations out there that test different points in the design space, sending and receiving different kinds of information with different people.
In the coming months, I’ll be writing about this exciting space. I’ll start with summaries of a few projects that my colleagues and I have done, and then proceed to other people’s published research and examples of emerging products and services. I’ll be categorizing them by themes, including some of the keywords that I’ve highlighted in this post, and others that may emerge over time.
Please comment or email me with suggestions of products and services. I don’t mind getting multiple pointers to the same thing, so feel free to tell me about things you think I may already know about.
About the author
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