Sports, data and HCI

SIGCHI Finland organized yet another interesting seminar 10.4.2014. This one was about my favorite topic: Sports, data and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The seminar covered themes like rock climbing, body measuring, wellbeing service design and habit formation with healthy games.

HCI and Rock Climbing

Raine Kajastila from Department of Media Technology, Aalto spoke about his team’s rock climbing research. Usually climbing research is either about movement analysis, motivation and social interaction or feedback and statistics. Kajastila’s research combined them all.

Augmented climbing wallWith a climbing wall, vertical projector and depth camera they had created augmented climbing wall prototypes, where you can create, store and load projected routes. This cool Augmented climbing –video shows their setup in action.  The picture on the left is a snapshot from it.

Their aim was to make exercising more fun, encourage social collaboration and accelerate motor kill learning. They did an experiment to test the feasibility of the interaction with projections and to gather more requirements. The feedback from test users was very good, and in future they will elaborate the augmented climbing wall further.

My reaction: It was delightful to see how it is possible to combine one’s hobby and professional interests, and make fascinating research out of it! I wish I could do the same one day in my career.

Wearable Future

Pekko VehiläinenPekko Vehviläinen from Accenture spoke about how sports and fitness technology can contribute to well-being. It had definitely contributed to his, and he was not afraid to show it.  He spoke about the topic also in Kauppalehti, where the image is from.

Vehviläinen demonstrated many different devices and applications there is to measure and monitor one’s body – be it heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, sleep quality, calories, distances, weight, fat mass or even nervous system. Products and services like Bodymedia, Withings scale, Movescount, HeiaHeia, Runkeeper, Beddit and Omegawave were mentioned.

The issue is that nothing really combines or analyses all the data from all these devices, applications and cloud services. Currently the “personal health and wellbeing data processing and supply chain” is long and complicated. And unless person is really motivated and interested in gathering and analyzing the data himself, not many do it.

One solution Vehviläinen suggested would be for workplaces to have health management, process and integration in place. Kind of “Wellness 360”: supporting employees not just in their work but also physical and mental wellbeing, as well as nutrition and recovery. That could be one route to happiness, which according to Dalai Lama is “the highest form of health”.

Happiness is the highest form of health –Dalai Lama

My reaction: I thought I was a fitness technology geek, but I felt like a novice after this presentation. I think I’ll read more of Vehviläinen’s thoughts at

Designing Services Around Connected Devices

Juha Pinomaa from Omegawave and MetaWatch spoke about his experience in health-related service design. Pinomaa has worked in Nokia, Suunto and currently in Omegawave and MetaWatch, so he has a lot of experience on the topic.

Omegawave is a product for endurance and fitness sports. It measures several things, which makes it more accurate than many other similar products in giving feedback to training and recovery. MetaWatch is a “smart watch” that is bluetooth connected to a smart phone. One can define what to show in the watch: meeting alerts, weather, sport scores, etc..

Pinomaa’s best practices for service design were:
• Define customer segments
• Define total user experience
• Test and validate with users
• Launch

And do this in short cycles with minimum viable product –approach. He also emphasized the importance of interoperability: a service should work with different devices and platforms.

My reaction: I was glad to hear that user-centered approach was mentioned as best practice for service design. But I wasn’t surprised because it IS the best practice :-)

Healthy Games and Why They Matter

Nelli Lähteenmäki from Health Puzzle brought to discussion the behavioral change –point of view. She emphasized that the greatest health issue is not lack of data or lack of information. The greatest issue is unhealthy habits. And the challenge is: how to change those habits.

The most proven way to change habits is to do it with micro-changes – tiny, easy changes toward your goal. By repeating a small change it becomes an effortless habit. It also gives brains the needed focus – “Cells that fire together, wire together”. Taking healthy micro-actions starts a virtuous cycle of happiness and more healthy action.

YOU by Health PuzzleHealth puzzle has created a mobile game (YOU-app) to encourage people to make small changes related to exercising, nutrition and mind. They utilize game features such as having a goal, feedback system and right kind of rewards, having rules and voluntary participation. And they combine this with the latest research on habit formation.


My reaction: Health Puzzle sounds like a strong player amongst their greatest competitors: the sofa, TV and fast food. I love Health Puzzle’s approach and truly agree with it: “Health belongs to everyone – not just for the healthy”.


I wish all the best to all the presenters, keep up the great and important work! And thanks for SIGCHI Finland for yet another interesting seminar!

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