Embedding Behavior Modification Strategies into a Consumer Electronic Device: A Case Study

  • Jason Nawyn
  • Stephen S. Intille
  • Kent Larson
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4206)


Ubiquitous computing technologies create new opportunities for preventive healthcare researchers to deploy behavior modification strategies outside of clinical settings. In this paper, we describe how strategies for motivating behavior change might be embedded within usage patterns of a typical electronic device. This interaction model differs substantially from prior approaches to behavioral modification such as CD-ROMs: sensor-enabled technology can drive interventions that are timelier, tailored, subtle, and even fun. To explore these ideas, we developed a prototype system namedViTo. On one level, ViTo functions as a universal remote control for a home entertainment system. The interface of this device, however, is designed in such a way that it may unobtrusively promote a reduction in the user’s television viewing while encouraging an increase in the frequency and quantity of non-sedentary activities. The design of ViTo demonstrates how a variety of behavioral science strategies for motivating behavior change can be carefully woven into the operation of a common consumer electronic device. Results of an exploratory evaluation of a single participant using the system in an instrumented home facility are presented.


Physical Activity Remote Control Sedentary Behavior Television Viewing Persuasive Technology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Stanger, J.D., Gridina, N.: Media in the home 1999: The fourth annual survey of parents and children, Annenberg Public Policy Center. University of Pennsylvania (1999)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fahey, V.: TV by the Numbers. Health, 35 (December/January 1992)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hill, J.O.: Obesity treatment: does one size fit all? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81(6), 1253–1254 (2005)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kaur, H., et al.: Duration of television watching is associated with increased body mass index. J Pediatr. 143(4), 506–511 (2003)CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Redelmeier, D.A., Stanbrook, M.B.: Television viewing and risk of obesity. JAMA 290(3), 332 (2003) (Author reply)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kubey, R., Csikszentmihalyi, M.: Television addiction is no mere metaphor. Scientific American: Issue, 74–80 (2002)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    McIlwraith, R.D.: I’m addicted to television’: The personality, imagination, and TV watching patterns of self-identified TV addicts. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 42(3), 371–386 (1998)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    An initiative to raise awareness about television’s impact. RealVision (cited, March 31, 2006),
  9. 9.
    Epstein, L.H., et al.: Decreasing sedentary behaviors in treating pediatric obesity. Arch. Pediatr Adolesc Med. 154(3), 220–226 (2000)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jason, L.A., Hanaway, L.K.: Remote control: A sensible approach to kids, TV, and the new electronic media. Professional Resource Press / Professional Resource Exchange Inc., Sarasota (1997)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fogg, B.J.: Persuasive Technology: using computers to change what we think and do. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Boston (2003)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bush, S.: Children earn television for exercise with Brunel project. Electronics Weekly, Sutton 8 (2005)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Deci, E.L., Ryan, R.M.: Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. In: Perspectives in Social Psychology. Plenum, New York (1985)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Roemmich, J.N., Gurgol, C.M., Epstein, L.H.: Open-loop feedback increases physical activity of youth. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36(4), 668–673 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Barker, A.: Kids in study try to dance away weight. Associated Press (April 4, 2005)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bickmore, T., Gruber, A., Picard, R.W.: Establishing the Computer-patient Working Alliance in Automated Health Behavior Change Interventions. Patient Educational Counseling 59(1), 21–30 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Levine, J.A., Eberhardt, N.L., Jensen, M.D.: Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science: Issue, 212–214 (1999)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Levine, J.A., et al.: Interindividual Variation in Posture Allocation: Possible Role in Human Obesity. Science 307, 584–586 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Intille, S.S.: A new research challenge: persuasive technology to motivate healthy aging. IEEE Trans. Inf. Technol. Biomed. 8(3), 235–257 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kubey, R.W., Csikszentmihalyi, M.: Television and the quality of life: how viewing shapes everyday experience. L. Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale (1990)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Munguia Tapia, E., et al.: The design of a portable kit of wireless sensors for naturalistic data collection. In: Fishkin, K.P., Schiele, B., Nixon, P., Quigley, A. (eds.) PERVASIVE 2006. LNCS, vol. 3968, pp. 117–134. Springer, Heidelberg (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Malone, T., Lepper, M.: Making learning fun: a taxonomy of intrinsic motivations in learning. In: Snow, R., Farr, M. (eds.) Aptitude, Learning, and Instruction: Cognitive and Affective Process Analyses, pp. 223–253. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale (1987)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Intille, S.S., et al.: Using a live-in laboratory for ubiquitous computing research. In: Fishkin, K.P., Schiele, B., Nixon, P., Quigley, A. (eds.) PERVASIVE 2006. LNCS, vol. 3968, pp. 349–365. Springer, Heidelberg (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Nawyn
    • 1
  • Stephen S. Intille
    • 1
  • Kent Larson
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge

Personalised recommendations