Normally, our body knows exactly what is good for us and sends us clear signals when we overstretch it and ourselves. However, over the years we have trained ourselves in order to evade them. Already at preschool, it doesn’t start when the child has gotten up, but when the parents have to work. It goes on in school: sport sessions are available according to the timetable and not according to your own urge to move. What begins in childhood continues through study and working life. Not only the “external circumstances” makes us ignore our body signal, also we overwhelm ourselves with too many tasks, get too little sleep or move not enough. We ignore the signals of the body such as burning eyes, irregular pulse or increased heart rate skillfully. Only real attention-grabbing signals reach our consciousness. Hopefully before it’s too late.
“Self-knowledge is the first step towards more well-being”, Nina Kirst writes in the first publication of our idea in PageConnect “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Design”. She also notes: “In hectic everyday life, the conscious self-consideration often comes too short.”
The special feature of our approach: We do not focus on the design of the wearables but on the subtle hints cross-device and the combination of existing services with each other. From the iWatch to the smart T-shirt, there will be enough sensor technology on the human body in the future to gather a wealth of data to help us understand our well-being. In addition, we are constantly surrounded by cameras in every laptop and phone as well as noise-sensitive devices like Alexa or Google. The field seemed to us already sufficiently cultivated.
We just complained that the pure data collection has no added value for humans. More interesting than looking at the recording equipment, it was for us to think of the mechanics behind the sensors and to consider the impact on the human individual. Karel, our CEO and owner of Indeed, often wishes for an “augmented intelligence that reinforces our human capabilities – without paternalism”.
Under this premise, we concieved the cross-device app »Mood Index«. It encourages you to pause and devote yourself to self-reflection. It captures the current mood of the user, reflects it and gently reminds the user to take care of themselves. For this purpose, it analyzes facial expressions and gestures of the user, their voice, health and geodata using screen and mobile phone cameras and adds them with the help of artificial intelligence to form an overall picture. So, the output is the Mood Index.
The app gets to know its user more and more over time, giving it the ability to provide personalized feedback and suggest activities that could lift their spirit. It was important to us that the app is not intrusive or patronizing. That’s why it shows the user his mood in a subtle way – in the form of a small personalized avatar – for example, at the bottom of the computer screen.
If the mood worsens drastically – determined, for example, by a rising heart rate, erratic movements or a shaky voice – the application actively logs on and warns the user via vibration of the smartwatch. The alarm implies, “What’s going on? Can you do something to make you feel better?
>> When designing the avatar, it was clear to me that it should not be an amorphous being. A crying teddy or a laughing strawberry would counteract the sense and seriousness of self-observation. At the same time, it was not allowed to be too realistic a representation or the photorealistic reflection of the person, so that not personally perceived flaws distract from the purpose of the positive self-consideration. A comical Mini-Me seemed to me an ideal option. Enough personalized to be perceived as part of the self – sufficiently abstract to distract as little as possible from the emotions to be presented.<<
On active demand of the user via chat, the app gives tips with which natural measures and rituals you could lighten your mood. For example, based on the mood history and current situation, the app suggests users go running with a friend – “You did not do that for a long time, but you were doing pretty well!”
Interpersonal interaction is preferred by default. After all, we are social beings and the exchange with our counterpart is essential for our psychological well-being.
We believe that such use of AI-based data collection and analysis could help us to be more aware of ourselves and thus promote long-term mental health and well-being.
It was important to us and often discussed that it cannot and shouldn’t be the only solution for the dwindling sense for our self. The reasons for the low degree of self-perception have to be tackled from many sites. Especially because nobody is helped if he knows what causes him or her stress, but the resources or social acceptance for remedy are missing. The app can only be a support. An aid to humans of the late-capitalism who have spent a great deal of energy working, not feeling, and now realizing they have lost something.
That’s why we are also watching developments like Mindstrong, a startup founded by three doctors. They monitor the time people spend on their smart phone and harvest the resulting data for the early diagnosis of depression. So far, despite privacy and other ethical concerns, they have successfully deployed their app and achieved initial significant results.
Read more articles from the PAGE theme special „KI und Design“ (in German).