Notes on “Embedding Behavior Modification Strategies into a Consumer Electronic Device: A Case Study”

November 2, 2008

Embedding Behavior Modification Strategies into a Consumer Electronic Device: A Case Study: Jason Nawyn, Stephen S. Intille, Kent Larson

The Gist: The authors built a television remote control that gently encourages exercise and discourages extended television viewing. Along the way, they thoroughly elaborated several design principles to support effective persuasive technologies. In a preliminary study with one user, the remote control showed promise to achieve its goals.

The Good: The descriptions of persuasive technology design principles are well thought out. It’s clear how they influenced and improved the design of the remote control system.

The principles include:

  • Just-in-time interactions: The technology needs to change behaviour at the behaviour’s time and place
  • No time commitment: The technology may grab attention but must not require a user to explicitly devote time to it.
  • Sustain interaction over time: The technology must not be abandoned by users after the initial novelty period.
  • Non-coercive: The technology must not force the desired behaviour. 
  • No extrinsic motivation: The technology must not treat the undesired behaviour as a reward.

The remote control system cleverly meets these criteria. It suggests alternative activities to TV at key moments (e.g. between shows or at commercial segments.) It makes it easy to switch from TV-watching to active games and monitor total TV watching time. It never actively interferes with TV watching or annoys the user.

The Bad: They didn’t have the resources to fully evaluate the remote, so it’s unclear that the technology actually accomplishes its goals.

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