This project, “Building communities of fitness: Sensing and sharing toward better health”, sought to promote health and wellness through personal and shared communication artifacts leveraging aggregated personal information collected by step counters, biometric sensors, and self-reports. The artifacts included personal mobile devices like smartphones and smartwatches, resulting in prototype semi-public aggregations of information that were displayed at the Moss Arts Center and around the area. The goal of the project was to increase community involvement in exercise programs through engaging technologies, toward understanding the impacts of a wide range of technologies on health-related performance and behavior.

The majority of the ICAT SEAD grant was used to support Andrey Esakia on a GRA. The three PIs met at least twice a month during the first three months of the project with Esakia to establish project directions, identify undergrads and other support personnel, help with selection of equipment, and identify opportunities to connect project goals with courses that we would be offering. We used a usability-centric development cycle, focusing on analysis of participant needs, design of technology-centered solutions, prototyping interfaces and web sites, and evaluating with participants who showed a need and desire to improve health through activity (and who would commit to wearing a smartwatch and using a mobile app for an 8-week evaluation session).

As a note, when this project was funded the CHCI agreed to simultaneously fund the Technology on the Trail initiative, including an additional GRA, some supplies, and a workshop. There is some crossover between the projects, mainly in  the use of technologies for tracking personal health and wellness (e.g., step counts, food consumption, mental well-being). A full report of that initiative was submitted to the CHCI and is available upon request.

Moving forward, the FitEx program will continue to grow, with increased opportunities for innovative technological aspects. Our multidisciplinary team seeks to balance the social, technological, and interactive aspects of this emerging domain, toward developing tech-based solutions that encourage community-centric exercise and fitness across a variety of populations. In the short term, project GRA Esakia plans to broaden available platforms and understand the group fitness dynamics for a broad and diverse set of users. Longer term, we seek to identify proven methods to use technology to encourage sustained behavior change toward healthier lifestyles.

We are hopeful to continue our positive relationship with ICAT will continue to be supportive of this project. We feel the partnership with ICAT was mutually beneficial, with exhibitions at ICAT Day in the spring and our course showcase day in the fall. We also sought to announce event and program participation at the ICAT Playdates and with flyers in the Moss public areas.