Tidings: QS Melbourne Show&Tell

August 12, 2014

The first QS Melbourne meetup. Photo by Bernd Ploderer

Today’s Tidings dispatch comes to us from Phil Goebel, organizer of the QS Melbourne meetup group. Recently, they held their sixth Show&Tell meetup, which focussed on discussing new self-tracking tools. They also announced a new project – The QS Device Library. Read below to learn more about this exciting idea and what transpired at the meetup.

QS Melbourne Show&Tell #6 Recap
by Phil Goebel

Greetings from down under! The Quantified Self community in Melbourne has been active since late 2012 and since then the community has shown enthusiasm for the potential impact that self-tracking technology can have. Earlier this month the Melbourne QS meetup hosted our first set of toolmakers – individuals who are involved in building self-tracking tools. Melbourne has a rich medical and health technology industry and the QS community here is developing into a key contributor to opening the dialogue about the role that self-tracking behaviour, the technology which facilitates it, and the data it generates has within a larger health informatics context.

Our first speaker was Rob Crowder from Smash Wearables. Rob shared his journey from a desire to improve his tennis game to launching a kickstarter campaign. Smash is a wrist worn device packing accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and microcontroller all into a small and aesthetically pleasing form factor. Rob comes from a physics background and the Smash project begun with strapping hacked together hardware onto his wrist and collecting and analysing a whole heap of data. Although Rob has always been and continues to be the driving force behind Smash he stressed the importance of the community which has grown around and is contributing to Smash and has been taken aback by the willingness and generosity of people to lend a hand. Even though Smash did not meet its Kickstarter goals, the Kickstarter campaign did accomplish other objectives which will hopefully lead to Smash being worn by some of Australia’s top tennis player in time for the next Melbourne Open.

Kayla Heffernan a Masters of Information Systems student at Melbourne University discussed and presented her experiences in designing a self-tracking mobile application which delivers complex messaging. The app is currently being used in a randomized controlled trial to better understand the effectiveness of encouraging health behaviours through mobile applications. The objective of the mobile application is to track sun exposure – this is a complex task as too little can mean vitamin D deficiency, too much can put an individual at risk of sun burns and skin cancer, plus factors such as what the app user is wearing needs to be taken into account. Kayla discussed user design techniques such as saving default settings and adding gamification elements to encourage user engagement and to deliver a complex message. It may be a while before the app is available to the broader public, but the results of the RCT will be interesting to follow.

QS Melbourne Announces the Quantified Self Device Library
In addition to the great discussion about the challenges and rewards of building software and hardware for self-tracking, QS Melbourne announced the development of a QS device library. As a result from a research project that happened at the Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre (HaBIC) at the University of Melbourne, there are about 40 self-tracking devices sitting on a shelf gathering dust. In an effort to put these devices to good use HaBIC is working with the QS Melbourne organisers to build a library where devices can be signed out for 1-3 month periods to encourage n=1 activity in the QS community. While still in the logistical planning phases this is a great opportunity to engage the community in QS ideas and concepts and end up with some great show&tell presentations that combine data sources in creative ways. Discussion about how the logistical issues will be handled is ongoing on the Melbourne QS meetup discussion board along with a list of the available devices. Thoughts about how best to setup this library would be appreciated.

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