El wire display prototype by Rachel Entwhistle. Photo by John Anderson, 2010.

El wire display prototype by Rachel Entwhistle. Photo by John Anderson, 2010.

El wire display prototype by Rachel Entwhistle. Photo by John Anderson, 2010.

El wire display prototype by Rachel Entwhistle. Photo by John Anderson, 2010.

CHANGE project summary

The CHANGE project is investigating how people react when ubiquitous technologies provide them with information about normally invisible behaviour. We are interested in whether and how people change their everyday habits with respect to environmental concerns and their well-being. Seeing how you are doing compared to an agreed or shared target is known to be an important motivating factor in the extent to which people reduce or increase a behaviour. We are focusing on situated decision-making, with the aim of providing salient information at key places where it can nudge, nag or nod, such as people's clothing, food packaging, the dinner plate or other everyday objects.


A recent development in computing is 'persuasive technology' for healthcare; sensor-based and mobile technologies are being developed to encourage, entice or even coerce people to become healthier through taking more physical exercise. Sensing and monitoring devices are used to measure (i) bodily functions, such as heart rate and galvanic skin response (GSR); and (ii) the amount of exercise someone performs, for example, the number of steps taken or laps swum. The various data streams are then fed into a persuasive application running on a smartphone. These can be compared to personal, peer or group targets, measured on an hourly, daily or weekly basis.

The CHANGE project is exploring how a range of persuasive ubiquitous technologies can be designed and tested to encourage other types of behaviour change. We use off-the-shelf mobile and sensor-based devices that have recently become available, including smartphones with micro-projectors that allow for flexible forms of ambient and contextual information to be displayed. In particular, we are interested in changing people's everyday habits with respect to environmental concerns, such as reducing an individual's, group's or organization's carbon footprint. Our goal is to promote 'proactive' and 'provocative' interactions with the environment.

An example of another everyday habit we will explore is food shopping. We intend to develop a computational roaming display that 'shadows' people while they are shopping, and depicts aggregate visualizations of a product's values, in terms of its carbon footprint, nutritional content, farming method employed, etc.

We will prioritize 'edgy' projects that raise contentious ethical and political issues with the general public including issues of control, privacy and trust.

CHANGE and the public

A series of hardware systems are being designed in quick succession and evolved in response to user experiments. Where possible, readily available hardware and software toolkits, and software libraries that are open source, are used. We will also reciprocate, making our prototypes available for these communities to help them to remain vibrant. We will open source all aspects of our development and the tools we use to construct these prototype systems (both hardware and software) to encourage DIY/hobbyist communities to further improve our systems, or transform them by using it in ways not imagined. Hence, where possible and productive, we plan to involve the general public in our research.

Expected project outcomes

The outcomes will include new understandings of how to use ubiquitous technologies to change people's everyday habits; design guidance and principles for developing persuasive technologies; and a number of demonstrator applications. Quality of life will be improved through pro-actively engaging people in their lives with respect to values they care about.