Designing a Digital Companion to Promote Physical Activity Among Sedentary Office Workers
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ISSN der Zeitschrift
Mensch und Computer 2018 - Workshopband
MCI-WS19: Digital Companion
Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.
Sedentary work life is the norm for today’s knowledge workers. The prolonged time spent sitting comes at the cost of increased all-cause mortality and is already discussed as one of the top diseases of modern civilization (Chau et al. 2013). Despite numerous efforts to create technology that helps sedentary workers to reduce their ubiquitous sitting practice, surveys have shown that most people abandon devices like fitness trackers soon after purchasing. In addition, over-reliance on reminders and self-tracking is hindering the formation of new habits and thus thwarting long-term health benefits (Stawarz et al. 2015). It is therefore of little surprise that effects of computer, mobile and wearable enhanced interventions to reduce sedentary behavior completely diminish after a period of 12 months (Stephanson et al. 2017) - if there was an effect at all to start with (Jakicic et al. 2016). So far, the only factor found to consistently motivate people to start and stick with physical activity routines is the support of friends and family (Trost et al. 2002). Committing to a person seems to be more obligatory than committing to a wrist strap. This finding is favoring recent significant developments in the realm of digital assistants and companions, turning these systems into promising candidates for a new generation of effective health technology. In this work, we outline the design and development of a digital companion targeting sedentary behavior in an office context. The companion is realized as a touchscreen-operated robot located at the office desk, tracking the users’ sitting behavior via a camera-based system. The companion is part of a multi-component intervention targeting not only the individual but also the organizational and environmental level. We end with highlighting opportunities and risks of designing for a mutual relationship with a very simple computer that aims at helping office workers to live a healthier lifestyle and to become a ‘better’ version of themselves.