The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) holds its annual ICAT Day every May, and this year’s theme was Sensing Place; apropos to the geo-sensing aspects of our initiative. We set up a series of projects related to Technology on the Trail, largely drawn from our CS 6724 graduate special topics class. Here’s a recap of them, along with links to ongoing work and press releases.
Andrey Esakia presented FitAware, his extension to the FitEx health and fitness program. FitEx leverages relationships within and between teams to improve physical activity behaviors, and FitAware helps raise awareness of individual and team fitness behaviors through smartwatch and mobile device interfaces. FitAware was a featured story in Virginia Tech News, and he authored a work-in-progress paper that appeared at the ACM SIGCHI Conference in May. Andrey was funded by ICAT this past year, in collaboration with Mike Horning, Samantha Harden, and Scott McCrickard.
Shuo Niu demoed his collaborative surface system for exploring hiking blog data. He uses a 55-inch multitouch tabletop display to show various analytics-based visualizations of the contents of hiking blogs. Words and phrases from the blogs can be manipulated to reveal repeated themes within a blog–often themes that the blog authors themselves didn’t realize were part of their blogs! A paper about this work is under review to appear at the ACM GROUP Conference (available upon request).
Gracie Fields displayed results from her cultural probes, a technique she employed to understand how people prepare for, undertake, and reflect on hiking experiences. Probes were sent to hikers of varying ages and abilities, from a 13-year-old Boy Scout who has done a few extended hikes to people in their 60s who have spent weeks at a time hiking. The probes asked people to answer questions, undertake preparatory hiking activities, reflect on personal and themed pictures, and much more over a multi-week session, toward encouraging participants to think and reflect in multiple ways about what hikes mean to them. Navya Kondor and Jagath Iyer also presented a spinoff presentation focused on the “would you rather” questions. More about Gracie’s work can be found in her recently completed thesis (available on request).
Tim Stelter presented a reflection on his week on the Appalachian Trail. I gave my class the challenge that if they took technology onto the trail for a 100-mile hike, it would earn them an automatic “A”. He and his dad covered over 50 miles (so 100 miles combined?) over spring break, and Tim generated a reflection paper to appear in the NatureCHI workshop in September. An article about his preparation for the hike appeared in our local Roanoke Times newspaper.
Some quick notes about other projects related to the theme. Colin Shea-Blymyer investigated mindfulness and forest bathing using EEG devices that monitored brain waves. He looked at baseline data from indoor EEG use, then compared it to data collected on outdoor hikes. Abigail Bartolome is collecting Twitter data from the three “triple crown of hiking” trails in the US: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Her focus in Spring 2017 looked at the different emotional themes that emerged on each trail. Phillip Summers crafted visualizations of hiking data that was uploaded to a public repository, particularly the geo-temporal data. He was able to identify main trails, side trails, camping areas, common turnaround points, and more. And Wallace Lages used the Microsoft Hololens to craft an augmented reality waypoint identification system for hikers.
Most of these project are still under way, so comments below or via email would be greatly appreciated!