or, simply, b.b.
Your everyday helper bot that helps manage stress
-- and your life.
b.b. is designed as a ubicomp solution that can be realized in the near future as technology, and our ability to track accurate stress (cortisol and adrenaline) increases. b.b. is designed to support students in managing their life and their multitude of responsibilities through two main functions: stress tracking/management and task organization/management.
Role: UX Researcher & Designer | Team Size: 4 | Duration: 13 Weeks
Tools: Qualtrics (for the survey), Sketch & XD (for lo-fi wireframes), InVision (for hi-fi mockups), Premiere Pro (for video editing), Particle Dev (for demo), C++ ( for demo), Particle Photon, Procreate (for sketches and storyboarding), Blender, Printrbot, Adobe AfterEffects
Skills: UX Field Research, Surveys, User Personas and Scenarios, Sketching, Wireframing, Literature Reviews, Cultural Probe, Diary Study, Qualitative Coding, Speed Dating
Why a Social Robot?
As a group, we wanted to focus on several potential issues facing college students, including stress and stress management. We are all passionate about making a positive impact on people and wanted to build something that could addresses root causes as opposed to just temporary fixes. Stress is the root cause of many issues, including health and mental health detriments. It was essential for us to develop a product that could serve as a system of support as well as relief.
USER PAIN POINTS
Lack of time
Too many demands
Feeling overwhelmed and without control
We designed our study to explore the following questions:
What are college students' stress triggers?
How do college students practice self-care?
What stops them from de-stressing?
To answer our research questions, we used a mixed-method approach using: a cultural probe, diary study, and a survey.
Formative Study & Experience Prototyping (User Enactments)
We designed a diary study to understand participants' stress levels over five days, their stress trigger, and how they practiced self-care. We recruited projects through the School of Social Work and UMSI Listservs by sending a pre-survey asking if they would be interested in a brief study. We had 5 participants give consent to participate in the diary study. We had a couple of limitations within our study; despite our best efforts, the majority of our participants are white women. Another limitation was the incompleteness of some of the returned packets.
We asked the participants to track their stress triggers, how they de-stressed, and what kept them from de-destressing throughout the day. They could also shade in a meter each day to showcase their stress level on a scale of 0 to 100. They tracked their triggers every day — using stickers to tally the triggers, such as homework, school, or relationships. On the final day, participants were asked to reflect on their stress from the previous four days, their general stress levels, and how they could have de-stressed.
We designed a cultural probe to understand better how college students experience stress, their study environments, and the ways they want to want to practice self-care. Again, we recruited participants for the School of Social Work and UMSI Listservs. We had 9 participants in our cultural probe study, with similar limitations as the diary study. We created three activities for them to complete within five days.
We designed five user enactments to understand better how users would use our product and in what circumstances. We recruited classmates and utilized snowball sampling. We had 5 participants give consent to participate in the 20-30 minute study. We had 2-4 group members at each session to facilitate. One person took notes, one narrated, and one or two group members played the role of the Robot. A brief explanation of the scenarios are below.
Primary stressors included a lack of time and difficulty with organizing tasks and calendars
Primary de-stressors included experiential things and social
A Ubicomp solution could be a support for de-stressing
User Enactments: The Robot should have the following features/flexibilities
Highly flexible and personalizable
Offer varying ways to communicate, including audio, visual,
utilizing third-party devices, lighting, sounds, notifications, etc
Be responsive to a multitude of settings, including where it
should be quiet and discreet in social situations, and open/more
interactive in nonsocial settings
Be secure and private when handling
Inviting, warm, and incorporate gamification
IDEAL SYSTEM PROPOSAL
We propose a table-top social robot (b.b) to help students cope with stress.b.b can communicate using a screen or speech. B.b has two main functions:
Managest stress levels: b.b automatically tracks stress levels by measuring cortisol levels and adrenaline. The goal is to help users be mindful of their stress and stress-triggers.
Task manager: b.b has access to the user’s schedules and calendar, helps them break tasks into smaller manageable chunks, and prioritize tasks while minimizing procrastination.
If the user chooses to, b.b can also use data from a Fitbit to track stress levels and sleep patterns. Users can track this data on a mobile/desktop application. b.b has an expressive TFT "face" and can be interacted with on a physical level. The robot has a microphone to capture the user’s commands and can also communicate
using a speaker.
IDEATION AND SELECTION
From our analysis, we found that although the stress triggers and stoppers were common amongst most of our participants, the de-stressors were diverse. Thus, our ideas were based on navigating students from stress to destress, instead of building solutions centered around de-stressors. Social-bot “Paro”, the app “pocket points”, “Tamagotchi” served as sources of inspiration.
We narrowed our ideas to three sketches and three individual issues for college students: accessing public study spaces, preparing for public-speaking tasks, and maintaining long-distance relationships.
3 preliminary concepts for augmenting our target environment(s) and population.
Concept 1: Mediation Headphones
“Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent. Symptoms may occur unpredictably (e.g., panic attacks) or predictably in specific situations (e.g., social phobia).” Previous studies have found, “Anxiety is one of the major predictors of academic performance. Students with anxiety disorder display a passive attitude in their studies such as lack of interest in learning, poor performance in exams, and on assignments.” This study found a significant correlation between high anxiety and low academic performance.
Based on this research and the teams’ observations, we proposed designing headphones with built-in sensors to detect the user’s stress levels. When students are studying for midterms or finals and feeling anxious about passing the course, the headphones would play soothing sounds they’ve pre-chosen to help them feel calmer while studying. When the headphones are in work or school mode, they will be able to detect the user’s brainwaves through EEG and measure breathing and heart rate through sensors to notify the user when they are distracted or stressed. If students are spending too much time on their cellphones or staring out of a window too long, the headphones will notify them they are distracted with sounds to redirect their brainwaves.
Concept 2: HeartBox
The idea behind this concept is to empower friends/partners to communicate even without words. HeartBox involves the use of two devices - a wearable and a table-top box. The wearable collects biofeedback from the wearer and senses when the wearer is feeling happy/pleasant feelings. The wearer can now choose to share this emotion with a partner. Once the wearer chooses to share, the table-top device that the partner owns would start to glow and begin to warm. The partner can now hold the box, feel the warmth, see the glow, and smile.
Concept 3: Pebble
Pebble is a discreet, multi-sensory feedback device for voice regulation, aimed at developing confidence when public speaking. Its name is a nod to the Ancient Greek orator, Demosthenes, who famously practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth to compensate for his stutter. Although we don't advise putting Pebble in your mouth, you can use it in a myriad of ways.
Pebble works simply. It measures the speed and frequency of your voice and tells you when to slow down, when to speed up, and when to change up the volume of your voice. Depending on your preferences, Pebble can offer feedback in the form of flashing lights, a ticking metronome, or haptic vibrations.
Pebble is smooth and weighted like its namesake and is engineered to fit perfectly and calmly in the hollow of your palm -- or in your pocket.
REFINED SCOPE AND CONCEPTS
Based on these High-level themes that emerged from the findings we decided to move forward with a social Robot concept:
Homework and classwork were by far the most stressful for students, followed by work and family.
Lack of time was a common reason for why participants felt they could not de-stress.
De-stressors tended to be focused on experiential qualities and holistic experiences, were likely to include a social element, and when technology was involved, it was used to support either an experience or a social experience. For example, many participants used collaborative video games and video streaming to de-stress.
Participants had mixed feelings about technology and stress. Some viewed technology as a stressor in their life, but most did not see UbiComp technology as stressful, and in fact, saw it as supporting their efforts to de-stress.
The "Robot" concept is a smart bot built with an AI to assist students with time-management, self-care, and stress awareness. The robot will also have a social aspect to support social connectedness. The robot is designed to aid the students to stay on task by prioritizing their to-do list and helps them find ways to de-stress when their stress levels reach a certain level.
FINAL SYSTEM CONCEPT
Stress Tracking & Management
Task Management & Refocusing
Assist with task and calendar organization
Auto-track stress levels
Feedback on stress (UI)
Alarms and Alerts
Voice-based interaction (with UI options)
MOBILE APP SCREENS
SEE THE EXPERIENCE
After our research and prototyping thus far, our next steps would be to continue with developing a more functional prototype (i.e., taking out any use of Wizard of Oz techniques) and usability testing. We need to do more testing around our ideas to see how they would be implemented in the field. After further testing, we would deploy the product to a developer and engineering team to create a fully working prototype that we would then pose to investors. We would continue to test the Robot with potential users, evaluating its effectiveness in reducing stress.
The limitations of our design are b.b. can only be used in one setting (at home). We're working in a niche market that needs a more social robot experience. Our target audience would have more hands-on needs than other life management systems.
After creating the prototype, we realized the need for advanced technology for our solution to be implemented (i.e., hormone measuring, syncing abilities, security, etc.).