Incentivising movement for a happier and healthier workplace

The Amica is an alarm clock with feelings that promotes mental and physical health by introducing movement and activity into daily office life. It achieves this by reminding users to take regular active breaks and incentivising movement during otherwise uninterrupted periods of inactivity. The Amica aims to engage users by connecting with them on an emotional level. It conveys its feelings or mood through colour, and displays breathing patterns using a pulsing light. It wakes up warm and golden and sleeps in a peaceful blue. It can blush pink and it can glow green in contentment. However, if you don't play with it, the Amica will flash red in panic!

Using a set time delay, the Amica knows how long to sleep while you work. After resting on your desk for an interval, the Amica will wake up and let you know it's time to take a break and play! Although, if you really can't take a break just pat it on the head and let it snooze a little longer. But, while it is awake, interacting with it through movement will keep it happy and healthy. Also, pushing two Amica into proximity of each other will make them blush! But if it just sits on your desk, alone and unloved, it will slowly lose a percentage of its health and screech if it hits zero.

Research indicates that inactivity can contribute to cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, reduced bone mineral density, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Office workers and those in desk-bound occupations make up around 45% of Australian workers and are at a high risk when it comes to low levels of physical activity. As such, our project aims to incentivise movement and activity in office spaces, where regular active breaks would not significantly affect workflow.

Technical Description

The microcontroller used to program and run the Amica prototype was a Particle Photon. This was combined with a Photon Battery Shield and Polymer Lithium Ion Battery so the Photon could be powered when placed inside the Amica. The Triple Axis ADXL335 Accelerometer Module was used to detect motion through reading changs in the x,y and z axis. When movement is detected/not detected, Amica will change its colour (red/green) to represent it’s status. The Capacitive Touch Sensor Module was used to detect touch through reading HIGH/LOW values on digital pins when touched/not touched. When touch is detected, Amica will change its colour (blue) to represent it’s status. A Magnetic Reed Switch Module (that contains a Reed Switch) and a Bar Magnet were used to detect proximity between 2 or more Amica prototypes. This is done through converting detection of a magnetic field to HIGH/LOW values on digital pins. When a magnetic field is detected, Amica will change its colour (pink) to represent it’s status. The NeoPixel Ring - 16 x 2812 and NeoPixel Digital RGB LED Strip was used to portray the status of Amica through different coloured lights.

  • Blue light -> Sleep/Snooze
  • Yellow light -> Awake
  • Red light -> Stationary + Losing Health
  • Green light -> Moving + Gaining Health
  • Pink light -> Blushing + Gaining Health.
The Veroboard and Wires were used connect all the hardware to the Photon. The Particle IDE was used to write, verify and flash code onto the Protons, and the neopixel.h library was used to define the NeoPixels.

The physical object itself was constructed by designing a dodecahedron and laser cutting individual sides from a medium density fibreboard. Each side of the dodecahedron has a piece of pentagonal acrylic laser cut to fit into place. The acrylic was frosted on the inside to make it semi-transparent for light to be reflected.

Final Statement

The Amica, as part of the UQ Interaction Design Exhibition 2019, received a generous amount of attention from visitors. In addition, we also received an invitation to present and demonstrate this project again at the UQ Open Day later in the year. The majority of users attracted to our project easily grasped the core concept and the feedback given was overwhelmingly positive. A number of users did require some explanation of the Amica’s purpose, although interactions with the device became more intuitive and energetic once users understood the problem space.

Over the course of the exhibit we generated an exciting level of engagement and interest, with many users noting that they found our problem space highly relatable. Many users commented that they were impressed with the object’s form and displayed interest in how the Amica was constructed. Generally, those who viewed this project were very excited by the emotional aspect of it. The blushing interaction between the two Amica generated a notable emotional response from users, partially due to the sheer closeness required for the interaction to occur, which created more intimate imagery than we initially intended. However, many observers commented on the conceptual cuteness of the Amica even before that particular interaction was demonstrated. Users also tended to personify the Amica. A faulty sensor caused one of the two devices to “fall asleep” at random intervals and this was somewhat viewed as a simple personality quirk during demonstrations. Many questions were asked regarding the size of the device, with users appreciating the smaller size relative to our initial prototype and describing the need for an even smaller final product.

The next steps for this project would include the refinement of the Amica’s form, expanding on the emotional interactions between devices, and the development of a mobile interface. As demonstrated during the exhibition, the devices would ideally be many times smaller than the current prototypes. The Amica should be small enough to be held comfortably and fit into a desk space without being too obstructive, but should also be large enough to feel substantial. The emotional interactions occurring between the devices could also be expanded upon in the future, with the addition of a friendly call and response interaction, for example. Finally, the development of a connected mobile application could add a layer of customisation to the device based on user needs and different office environments, allowing the Amica to fit into a more diverse range of office spaces without disrupting workflow.