Showing all posts tagged #design:

DNA Disco shows you which endangered animal you dance like and how you can protect it

Posted on May 30th, 2015

Shake your booty, save the penguin.

DNA Disco is a free mobile app to raise awareness of wildlife conservation by telling you which endangered animal you dance like, for example "you dance like a panda". It converts your dance moves into a DNA sequence, which is then searched against a database of real genes from endangered species to find the best match. You'll see the animal's conservation status and be able to support organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to protect the animal and its habitat.

TRY IT NOW: go to on your phone, press “Let’s Dance" and start dancing.

The challenge

The world’s endangered species are getting more endangered every day: we’ve lost 50% of the world's wildlife over the last 40 years.

Wildlife conservation isn't just something for fluffy bunny lovers. We're all affected by this. Saving wildlife means saving habitats and ecosystems. Ecosystems provide humans with clean air, pure water, food, medicines and raw materials such as wood. In 1997, these ecosystem services were valued at US$33 trillion per year, although the true value of the natural world is infinite because we can't live without it.

How can we create a real sense of urgency about this, without just scaring people away? And how can we do this most among the generation with the most to lose, young people worldwide?

The opportunity

DNA Disco is an idea for creating viral awareness among young people by tapping into things they already love: music, dance and social sharing. In just a few seconds, anyone can relate their own dance moves to the world’s endangered species. With just a bit of funding, we could start a movement.

Next steps

I have a beta version that works — you can try it at I want to improve this beta version by focussing on making it easier to understand, use and share.

What’s the app like?

Open the app. Do your dance. And in a few seconds, your moves are translated into a DNA sequence and matched to one of 14 endangered species.

Suddenly, you find you’re dancing like a panda. Or a snow leopard. Or a polar bear.

It simple, it’s physical, and it’s fun. It’s designed for sharing.

How it works

DNA Disco is a simple HTML5 game that matches movements made with a mobile phone to sequences of DNA belonging to endangered species. Once they’ve been matched with an animal the player is encouraged to adopt that animal through the WWF or sign up for WWF membership. Players are also able to share their result on social media.

The app uses open data from the European Nucleotide Archive. Genes are selected based on their relevance to the organism, for example the high density of myoglobin in dolphin muscle allows dolphins to stay underwater for long periods.

The FBI approach to negotiation

Posted on May 2nd, 2014

From Artificial emotional intelligence by Giles Colborne.

Creative Surplus: Transforming Attention Deficit

Posted on April 19th, 2013

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a lifelong condition affecting children and adults. In addition to problems with attention, memory and self-control, people with ADHD are more likely to experience mental health problems (Young & Bramham 2007) and engage in criminal activity: 30-50% of UK prison inmates are thought to have the condition versus only 5% of the general population (Young & Goodwin 2010). In 2000, excess treatment costs for adult ADHD in the USA were $31.6 billion, with loss of work productivity estimated to cost a further $77 billion (Weiss 2007).
Design has the potential to significantly reduce the costs of ADHD: whereas psychiatrists and clinical psychologists modify the individual through biochemical, cognitive and behavioural means, designers are best placed to modify the the physical, social and digital environment. For example, social design approaches used by the Design Council to reduce violence against staff in UK accident and emergency wards (Britt 2011) could inform programmes to reduce violence in prison by inmates with ADHD. As yet, however, designers have few academic resources to draw on when designing products and services for people with ADHD (McKnight 2010).
Design and the creative arts have a role to play in maximising the potential benefits of ADHD as well as minimising the costs. Four studies in the scientific literature (Sarkis 2011) have shown a positive correlation between ADHD and creativity, for example: "adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking ... and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD" (White & Shah 2011). Several business schools in the USA teach design thinking (Harvard 2013) and improvisation (Tutton 2010) to develop creativity and leadership, skills that could could help people with ADHD “use creative advantages to strategically offset difficulties caused by ADHD symptoms in daily life" (White & Shah 2011).
Drama and improvised theatre can also be used in the design process to improve collaboration and communication (Gerber 2007), to develop empathy (Stewart 2011), and to facilitate participatory design (Brandt 2000) -- a particularly attractive proposition for a user group that may be inherently creative.
Designing for and with people with ADHD may ultimately benefit the non-ADHD population in an increasingly distracted world: “on 10 October 2011, BlackBerry’s messenger services went offline for 3 days … Dubai police reported a 20% drop in road traffic accidents. Abu Dhabi police reported a 40% drop ... the interfaces we create are killing our users ... maybe we can take some design lessons from [people with ADHD]" (Colborne 2011).

Brandt, E., & Grunnet, C. (2000). Evoking the future: Drama and props in user centered design. In Proceedings of Participatory Design Conference (PDC 2000) (pp. 11-20).
Britt, A. (2011). Reducing violence and aggression in A&E. Design Council.
Colborne, G. (2011). Driven to distraction. CX Partners.
Gerber, E. (2007). Improvisation principles and techniques for design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1069-1072). ACM.
Harvard (2013). The Business of Design Thinking. Harvard Magazine 29 January 2013.
McKnight, L. (2010). Designing for ADHD: in search of guidelines. In IDC 2010 Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth Workshop.
Sarkis, S. (2011). Is the ADHD Brain More Creative? Psychology Today 13 June 2011.
Stewart, B. (2011). DD+D: a theatre-based design consulting firm. Dramatic Diversity.
Tutton, M. (2010). Why using improvisation to teach business skills is no joke. CNN 18 February 2010.
Weiss, M. (2007). The Economic Costs of ADHD. Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada.
White, H. A., & Shah, P. (2011). Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(5), 673-677.
Young & Bramham (2007). ADHD in Adults: A Psychological Guide to Practice. John Wiley and Sons: Chichester
Young, S., & Goodwin, E. (2010). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in persistent criminal offenders: the need for specialist treatment programs. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 10(10), 1497-1500.

The Affective Consequences of the Electric Light Bulb

Posted on January 19th, 2012

The invention of the electric light bulb in the 19th century liberated us from the constraints of night and day, but at what cost to our emotional health?

Why do we sleep?
The origins and purpose of sleep are not yet fully understood, but it is clear that sleep plays an essential role in physiological and psychological homeostasis. Sleep is important for the regulation of mood, for growth and development, for the formation of long-term memories, and for maintenance of a healthy immune system (Choe 2010).
The quantity and quality of sleep are regulated by natural variations in light and darkness during the day (circadian rhythm), and during the year (seasonal variations). Human gene expression and signalling in response to light and darkness is very similar to that found in many other organisms (Ko & Takahashi 2006), which suggests sleep is important for survival.
Artificial light
Our non-human ancestors lived in world without artificial light. The introduction of fire, oil lamps and candles gave humans the possibility to extend daylight artificially, but these methods were relatively expensive, and their luminosity and wavelengths do not affect sleep adversely (Dennet 2001, pp 98-100).
Since the invention of the electric light bulb in 19th century, relatively cheap and bright artificial light has enabled a significant and increasing proportion of the human population to work, study and play at a time of their choosing. During the same period, there has been a 2 hour reduction in the average number of hours slept per night by adults in industrialised countries, and increasing uniformity across seasons: we no longer sleep for longer in the dark winter months (Dennet 2001, pp 98-100). Dennet (2001) argues that this has resulted in an epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation with grave consequences for our health.
The effects of sleep deprivation on the individual
Acute sleep deprivation impacts mood - fatigue, vigour and confusion - and stress (Minkel 2010). Chronic sleep deprivation has more serious consequences (see Table 1).
Affective dimension
  • Fear: worrying about waking on time
  • Frustration: cannot get to sleep
  • Anger: blame self or others for sleep loss
  • Anxiety and stress: fatigue impairs attention, concentration and memory, which impacts performance in personal and professional life; impaired immune system leaves us vulnerable to disease
  • Depression: disease, anxiety and chronic stress can lead to depression and, in some cases, suicide

Table 1. The affective consequences of chronic sleep deprivation
Mood can be affected directly and indirectly: for example, chronic sleep deprivation has been implicated in obesity (Dennett 2001), which can adversely affect self-image and leave the individual at risk of anxiety and depression. Depression can be both a cause and effect of sleep loss, which can lead to a downward spiral of depression and sleep deprivation.
These effects can be exacerbated by individual and cultural attitudes in terms of the quantity, quality, utility and even moral value of sleep.
Sleep can also be affected by psychiatric conditions. For example, due to chronic problems with time management and procrastination, individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to stay up late to work or study, and thereby forgo sleep, which would have been difficult or impossible before the invention of electric light.
The effects of sleep deprivation on society
The aggregate effect of increasing morbidity and mortality is costly to society as well as individuals, from the treatment of physical and psychological illness in our health systems, to income lost through illness and premature death.
Sleep deprivation impacts safety-critical systems. For example, an air traffic controller was asleep while two aircraft landed without guidance (Williams & Mouawad 2011), putting lives at risk - the focus of news reports were on the work place, but did the home environment and cultural attitudes towards sleep have an effect?
Opportunities for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
Many people are not aware of their sleep behaviours and the consequences of sleep deprivation (Dennett 2001).
Sleep has been given little attention in HCI, yet there are many opportunities for technology to help monitor sleep and maintain conditions for healthy sleep (see Figure 1):
Figure 1. Technology design ideas (Choe 2011):
(Left) Unobtrusive sleep monitoring tool uses a weight sensor under the bed to estimate sleep times and wake times.
(Middle) Role playing game where the player’s character only heals when the player actually rests in real life.
(Right) To help support a good sleep environment, this tool uses sensors to measure the room temperature, light, and sound and changes light colors as a simple indication if one or more conditions is not ideal.
Sleep monitoring can be combined with mood diaries and physiological observations in clinical settings, such as in sleep laboratories or as part of a programme of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
The limits of technology
The ethical issues around such technology include privacy and trust - the bedroom is a place of intimacy as well as sleep - and yet the costs of doing nothing are high, particularly for vulnerable members of society (children, older adults and the disabled).
Moreover, good design and engineering have their limits, particularly where there are strong economic and social disincentives that undermine sleep. Fundamental changes in economies and societies usually require shifts in cultural values, not just technological solutions.
If awareness is the first step to such shifts, then design solutions combining elements of of ubiquitous computing (Rogers 2009) and behavioural economics (Dolan 2010) may offer some promise.
Choe, E. K., Kientz, J. A., Halko, S., Fonville, A., Sakaguchi, D., & Watson, N. F. (2010). Opportunities for computing to support healthy sleep behavior. Proceedings of the 28th of the international conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems CHI EA 10, 3661. ACM Press.
Dolan et al (2010). MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy. Institute for Government.
Ko, C. H., Takahashi, J. S. (2006). Molecular components of the mammalian circadian clock. Hum Mol Genet 15: R271-R277.10.1093/hmg/ddl207. PubMed: 16987893.
Minkel, Jared D. (2010). Affective Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Publicly accessible Penn Dissertations. Paper 218.
Rogers, Y. (2009). The Changing Face of Human-Computer Interaction in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing. In A. Holzinger and K. Miesenberger (Eds.), USAB 2009, LNCS 5889, 1-19.
Williams & Mouawad (2011). Air Traffic Controller Is Suspended. New York Times 24 March 2011
Young & Bramham (2007). ADHD in Adults: A Psychological Guide to Practice. John Wiley and Sons: Chichester

Antony Quinn

Technology consultant, actor & improviser.