The Moment (MFA Thesis)
(2014-2015) Role: Research, UI, UI, Prototyping, Testing

This project was presented at ACM UbiComp 2014 in Seattle, WA and Rethinking Mindfulness Conference at MIT, 2014.

The Moment is a mobile application for people with depression or bipolar disorder to monitor their emotional ups and downs, reveal their emotional patterns, and eventually find a peaceful way to live with their emotions, rather than fighting with them.

Everyone has ups and downs. But those feelings are usually short-lived. However, sometimes they become persistent and even interfere with one's daily life and causes pain for both her and those around her. We call it mood disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in every five people suffered or has suffered from some form of mood disorder. These include depression and bipolar. While those with depression experience a persistent depressed mood, those with bipolar disorder experience moods that cycle between depression and extreme excitability. For these mood disorders, medication, counseling and social support help, but are not enough. For people with depression or bi-polar disorder, a proper and positive intervention is needed and helpful. However, an effective intervention should not be universal, because everyone has his/her unique experiences. A customized intervention based on these unique experiences will be of significant help. This project is an attemp to design a personalized intervention tool for people with emotional disorders to better manage their emotions.

Target User: People with depression or bi-polar disorder.

Project Goal:

  • To make the user more aware of her mood swings and the precursors to them,
  • To reveal patterns of the emotional swings,
  • To provide a record for healthcare providers,
  • To build a library of personalized interventions for future use,
  • To create an effective network of social supports.
  • Design Process and Implementation

    Since The Moment requires users’ long-term engagement to yield meaningful analysis, I thought that one of the best ways to engage users would be to make the tool intuitive and comfortable for use. Thus the project has been designed and developed under an iterative process and the design decisions were made after reviewing:

    • Ethnographic research to explore potential needs and solutions;
    • Contextual research on colors and emotions;
    • Interviews with medical professionals, therapists and clinical psychologists about factors that should be tracked to reveal meaningful patterns;
    • Consultations with writing professionals to find understandable language for the interface;
    • User studies on the language that is used to describe emotions, appetite and sleep quality;
    • Usability tests on the interface.

    The project has gone through three major design phases.

    First Design Phase

    The first version of the project tried to achieve three goals. The first was to compare self-reporting data and physiological feedback collected by the sensor. The second was to generate personalized interventions, and the third, to find at what point a personalized intervention should be provided to the user. This was a team project with me in charge of the interface design, while Akane Sano was helping me with the data analysis. The research was supervised by Pro. Picard at the MIT Media Lab, while Professor Brian Lucid at DMI advised me on the interface design. A Q sensor1, was provided by the Affective Computing Group for me to collect physiological data during the 2-month research.

    Sketches from 1st design phase

    Screenshots from 1st design phase

    Second Design Phase

    The goal of the second design phase was to reconsider the whole system, including the interface for self-reporting, the visualization of the data, and how to implement the social support feature. To do this, I did a whole new run of research and testing on color and emotion. I also consulted with clinical psychologists to learn more about psychotherapy; and participated in the “Tools for Well-Being” class at MIT Media Lab to learn more about the factors involved in well-being and to get feedback from both the scientific and psychological perspectives. I then did a paperprototye for this design phase.

    Sketches (UI) from 2nd phase

    Sketches (Data Visualization) from 2nd phase

    Mockup of Doctor View (newly added in 2nd phase)

    Third Design Phase

    Since the features were all decided on, the third design phase was focused on making the interface more clear as well as implementing the whole app. There were only some minor changes in this version. They can be viewd here.

    Screenshots from 3rd phase

    User testing at UbiComp 2014

    TNext Steps, Other Plans and Thoughts

    Finish the unfinished. This includes:
    • Implement the setting panel for more personal settings.
    • Implement the self-defined color and emotion map: this will be a challenge, because in the “Friends” screen, the user should be able to see her friends emotional states color-coded in the way she understands. This would be complex to implementat.
    • Integration with other existing biometric products such as Fitbit and Up by Jawbone so the user can compare her self-reporting data with behavioral and biological data and see if she it would reveal possible patterns. This would be the long-term goal.

    Conduct long-term (at least 3-month) human testing with bipolar patients to assess the efficacy of the app from a scientific point of view (as opposed to a designer’s view).

    Add other intervention solutions. I was introduced to ideas in “Tools for Well- Being” class, such as food, exercise and meditation. I have been experimenting with these and will hopefully bring them into the future design of interventions.