A tool that leverages the power of music to help runners optimize the flow of running through manual and automatic personalization.
FINDING AREAS TO EXPLORE We were tasked with an open ended design project: find an area of interest, research this particular space for potential opportunities, and then design a product based on these findings. In the beginning phase, we brainstormed areas that seemed intriguing to explore. We started with a universal qustion, asking ourselves: What bugs us? Our personal lists included cleaning, public bathrooms, and food wastage. We then created affinity diagrams to find common themes. We saw that there were tasks that were important but for whatever reason remained unenaging, and thus were not performed enough. We narrowed our focus on exercise and began to consider potential user experiences. We were intrigued by individual exercises that encompass physical, mental and emotional aspects. How do we improve the â€˜exerciseâ€™ experience? A key factor we found was that the physical benefits of exercise were in some ways eclipsed by what exercize allows for: moments shared with friends, goal setting and achievement, and/or time with oneself. Because of this we were intrigued by the possibility of creating an athletic based teaching tool or competitive social game, and by exploring how people use tools to bring social elements into thei individual exercise experiences.
Posting topic and areas of interests allowed us to seeing how those topics branch out in-depth and relate to other topics.
UNDERSTANDING USER NEEDS AND ASPIRATIONS To understand users’ aspirations, we conducted preliminary need finding interviews on why people do or do not exercise and what they get out of it. Initially, we wanted to explore how to motivate people to exercise by using rewards or punishment tactics. In our interviews we found that users who do not exercise daily generally blame laziness, business, and the inconvenience of facilities or equipment. Surprisingly, though, amongst those participants who exercise regularly, a common motivation was exercise’s ability to relieve stress and get the participant into the zone with their thoughts by themselves; interviewees even talked about how their mood would affect their exercise. This intrigued us, as it strongly contrasts with the typical view of exercise as motivated by health and body image concernts. Therefore, we decided to explore the aspect of individualized exercising as a way for emotional and spiritual relief and flow.
I exercise for stress-relief from work. For a moment I can not worry about things and just focus on my thoughts. Often time my mood will affect whether or not I’ll go exercise.
WHAT MAKES US FEEL “IN THE ZONE”
Questions were important in our process. We asked , “What makes us feel in the zone or ‘flow’?” hoping to discover why some experiences are more powerful than others.
RESEARCH ON FLOW AND ZONE As a way to explore how users get into a state of flow through their exercises, we decided to do research on yoga, as it is the extreme form of exercise that emphasizes the spiritual and emotional self. We conducted more interviews with people about flow and â€œthe zone,â€? and ran make tools sessions with novice, intermediate, and expert participants, looking at how yoga allows them to achieve personal flow. In addition, we conducted contextual research where we participated in a yoga class to understand what it feels like to be in the classroom setting.
FINDINGS FROM INITIAL RESEARCH We collected the notes that we took from our research and created an affinity diagram. From that we noticed certain patterns or trends that participants tend to mention frequently: • Music acts as enhancer to atmosphere and to achieve flow • Participants enjoy self-paced individual exercise, where they determine the pace • Participants use exercise as a way to escape, to find relief and peace • Other people has an affect on them: Positive: feeling connected with others, a sense of community Negative: tend to look at others as a comparison and get distracted by others
APPLICATION & TRANSLATION TO RUNNING Although yogis were not our target audience in the end, we found our research to be applicable and translatable to runners as well. We saw yoga as an extreme example of people using exercise as a way of release and achieving flow. However, this flow state is a factor sought after by practitioners of many other sports. From our initial research, we found that the experience of yoga is poorly suited to technological intervention, and decided to broaden our scope and focus on a more relatable form of exercise. One aspect that stood out to us from our experience with yoga was the impact of music. Not only did music enhance the tone and atmosphere of the environment, but it also helped people achieve a personal state of flow.
MAKE TOOLS 1 + 2 We encouraged participatory design through make tools, a design method that uses visuals and allows users to freely talk about the area of interest. The first make tools session was an image and word collage activity where participants depicted why they run and what they like and dislike about running. They were given a set of pictures, a set of colors, a set of words and a piece of paper to use to think aloud about their experience. The second make tool session aimed to find out where participants usually exercise and why they choose those places. We gave participants a map of Greater Pittsburgh and encouraged them to think aloud on why they run in those particular areas and what happens while they are running. They were encouraged to start explaining one good experience and one bad experience and then to add other aspects as appropriate. Each make tools session was conducted with participants with different levels of experience. There were 3 intermediates and 5 novices. Data was collected as collages, notes and audio recordings. From these make tools sessions, we found: • Participants saw running as a way to escape/enhance their mental, emotional, spiritual state • They used music as a way to keep them from getting bored • Music is often a distraction - it’s a lot of trouble having to take out your phone to adjust the playlist or skip a song • Runners found themselves running slower/faster than usual because of songs • They feel different during the run based on their mood and physical change • Many did not like running with others as it would distract them • Participants wanted a solitary experience in order to connect with themselves. • They a sense of social experience where they share music and share their running achievements. (One participant mentioned tweeting that she completed a 5 mile run as it was a way for her to share her accomplishment) • Some associate paths of their run with specific songs based on start, during, end
MAKE TOOL 3 To better understand users’ association with music choices for running, we conducted another make tools session where participants were asked to express their current mood and explain how they would choose music to hear based on their mood. We encouraged them to select any music, either from their own music list or from a music service like Spotify or Pandora. Then, they were asked to choose a color for each song and think aloud on why they chose the particular song and how that music affected them afterwards. Through this research, we found: • Many users chose genre radio stations on music services like Spotify or Pandora to best suit their music selection. However, since genre still encompasses different types of music, users were frustrated and skipped songs when the music selection were not suitable for the activity or current mood. • Users explained that they are frequently annoyed when they need to find music by fiddling with physical mp3 players or phones to change music selection. • They explained that they like to explore new music because they don’t like listening to same songs they have. However, they would frequently listen to familiar songs when they are tired during the run
QUOTES FROM RESEARCH I use Pandora, but hate it when a slow song comes on. I have to take my iPod off my armband and then skip songs. I tried running with my iPod on a long run once. One problem was that the iPod kept moving around and bumping into me, and I wasn't able to focus as much as I normally would, which led to uneven pacing. I listen to dubstep, metal, and electronic dance for a little extra push when I exercise. When I'm just walking I like to listen to smooth jazz and classical music. I always try to listen to music that either suits my mood or music that calms me down so I'm always calm.
Loud, heavy, angry music is usually the best. It's like having your own personal trainer screaming in your ears to work harder. It was always really nice when I heard a song I knew during the part of the run I struggled with. Sometimes I would fish for a good song before I could run more. I find the same thing, when I'm in a tired mood I listen to pop. Whereas, when I'm in another mood, I'll listen to Hardstyle or Drum'n'Bass!
SYNTHESIZING RESEARCH Based on insights from three different make tools sessions, we made affinity diagrams to distill common themes and ideas Some emergent patterns were: • Mood, music, and environment are the key influences of people during their runs • Mood and environment affect the holistic experience • With music and running (and yoga), people sought to spend time with themselves. The physical and music helped to connect them with their thoughts • People did not like using their own playlists every time because they were too familiar with the songs, causing them to not enjoy them as much. Thus, they used radio or music services that pull music selections based on genre or artist. • However, depending on the rigor of run or the user’s mood, users specifically wanted familiar music at times. • People not only categorize music by genre and artist, but also categorize music based on the mood of the song based on the rhythm, lyrics, feeling of the song
AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY TO ENHANCE USER EXPERIENCE Based on insights from three different make tools sessions, we decided to address
users’ needs for personalization of music based on their mood and desired pace.
Upon analysis, the core themes in our ideas centered on enabling the user to manipulate and personalize their music before and during the run to best suit
This meant shifting from developing a traditional learning tool to a more holistic
their state and allow for an uninterrupted state of flow during the run.
tool aimed at encouraging states of flow by adjusting runners‘ music to predict their needs. As our research uncovered, the primary factors that influenced
We decided to pursue the ideas centered around enabling users to quickly set
users’ desired song choices were their mood and desired pace.
their desired music selection based on their current mood state using color coordination categories.
We created a number of concepts to help us prioritize and vision ideas. In evaluating these ideas, a key consideration was the relationship between the user
We also wanted to include automatization and prediction of music selection in
and the technology. We wanted to ensure our designs aimed to help people feel in
order to minimize disruptions a user faces while running. These disruptions
like people, rather than inputs to a system algorithm trying to opaquely match
include the mental energy a user spends while trying to remember and
music to their changing needs (mood, pace) during the run.
categorize a new song, the effort it takes for a user to find a familiar song, or the time spent trying to skip a song that is a poor match for their current state.
These ideas included:
By intelligently matching music to user state, we hope to eliminate these
• A learning tool where music is used to teach how to build endurance
distractions which distance the user from their thoughts and disrupt their
• An app that plays music based on the weather, season, time of the day
state of flow.
• Music based on context/where you’re running (gym vs city vs park) • Disrupting patterns by playing familiar music while in an unfamiliar place/Playing unfamiliar songs running in a familiar place
PRODUCT VISION AND VALUE OF CONCEPT Our target users are often running/jogging/walking as a means of connecting within themselves. In this light, the user experience must focus around minimizing the amount of time the user spends interacting with the device. Interfaces should be easy and clear. Any new gesture designs should require minimal learning and include subtle affordance. Automation and prediction should be useful and reflective of users’ personal needs. We envision Pace, a tool that leverages personalization of music both before and after the run and automatically helps runners achieve and maintaing a state of flow. The tool’s core principle is to use combination of user input and accelerometers in the physical tool to understand the users’ needs and enable easy and quick access to the user’s music selection. The user can explore and share their music to enhance and help others’ running experience in achieving ultimate flow. With users’ personal input, the user can pull songs that best match their current mood or what they want out of the run, for instance wanting a change in their mood. Also, the user can change the pace of their run at anytime so they will still pull out songs that match their mood and physical activity, enabling them to fully connect with their mental and physical state. With the accelerometer in the physical tool, users automatically receive familiar, encouraging songs when their performance is low to help them maintain their state and the physical device predicts the user‘s best music for running/jogging/walking by analyzing which songs best worked for their set pace by comparing the beats per minute (bpm) of the song and bpm of the users’ performance. The core benefit is that the user can simply categorize music based on mood and pace, informed by their own performance and experience, enabling people to help each other to achieve states of flow of where they connect physical and mental state.
01 BEFORE RUN
PERSONALIZATION: Quick access to music relevant to userâ€™s mood and activity Our research revealed that users frequently went running to enhance or to change their emotional state. Thus, they selected music based on the genres and artists that would best suit their mood and physical activity. This inspired a design that utilized the userâ€™s mood and favorite genre/artists to provide relevant music curated by users in the community. Mood based smart lists provide quick access to music relevant to the userâ€˜s mood and physical activity. This way, the user would not have to sort through music lists to find most suitable music before and during the run. This saves the user time by eliminating the process of categorizing and scanning for music. The user can access music for their run by simply choosing relevant mood and also categorize that mood in one of the color categories to easily choose music for their next run. The color categories are limited to 5, enabling users to quickly get to music list based on their mood. Once the user completes the personalization, it syncs with the Pace device via bluetooth.
Categorization of music is enhanced by enabling users to indicate their mood and
Five colors are given as a way for the user to categorize their music list based on
activity in advance of the run. They can also
their mood. Users can always search for
control music based on distance or time. The
music mood lists from the community.
system will pull songs that best suits all aspects: mood, activity, and distance/time. In personal settings, favorite genres and artists are inputted to enable the system to pull music that best suits personal taste in music.
If a certain mood music list is not available in the community, the user can create new playlist by tagging new songs from their own music or music on Pace online site.
02 DURING RUN
USER CONTROL Personalization of music pace and selection through simple gesture and haptic response on physical device Our research revealed that runnerâ€™s high or the flow state is often disturbed when the user wants to change the pace of physical activity but music selection does not reflect their changed state. We found that users shift songs around based on tempo. They usually start slow and work their way up. After the device has synced with the phone, the user can manually set the pace of their run during the run. Pace then dynamically changes music to best suit the userâ€™s changing needs during the run. In order to change pace, the user simply twists the face of the unit, so the user does not have to look at the device while adjusting pace mid-run.
The device is simple and it can be clipped anywhere on userâ€™s body. The clip rotates
During the run, users can simply look at the device to see their overall progress on
If a song does not suit their taste, the user can simply tap on the
independently of the device, allowing the user
time/distance, average pace and song they
device to skip it. When the user skips the song, the system recognizes
to position the device in an orientation that is
are listening to.
that the user does not like working out to that song and would not
accessible and still comfortable to read.
play the song anymore.
To change the pace/ bpm of the run, the user can simply turn the device clock-wise to
To skip a song, the user can tap the device without having to enter the system. If
To pause, stop or replay music, the user can press down on the face to enter a more
increase the pace and turn counter
desired, the user can look at the center
detailed menu, and the user can select one
clock-wise to decrease the pace. The center
screen for information on the music like the
of these functions by touching.
screen will show numeric bpm but the user
artist and title.
can intuitively manipulate bpm just with a simple turn.
03 DURING RUN
DYNAMIC OPTIMIZATION Automation and prediction of music selection based on performance Research has shown that users want most high energy, familiar songs when they are facing a challenging part of their run. The accelerometer in the device analyzes the user’s performance. When the user’s pace is not matching the music’s pace (bpm), the system recognizes that the user is in need of motivation. The systems pulls familiar power songs that are based on user’s saved songs from favorite genres and artists. When the user’s bpm matches the song’s bpm, the system learns that the music helped the user and automatically ‘likes’ and saves the songs to play more often in later occasions, which eliminates the need for the user to remember and later flag the songs by hand. However, users can always manually ‘like’ the song themselves. As this data accumulates, the system learns best songs for certain moods and activity levels (pace). As more data is collected, the overall accuracy improves for the user as well as for the whole community.
04 AFTER RUN
REFLECTION + SHARING Post-Workout Reflection After the run, the user can reflect on their performance by looking at the map of their route to see where they changed pace and how their music impacted their performance. The system displays the playlist that the user just ran to and lets them re-listen to their entire run. The user can manually select certain points on their route to see how they performed during that moment. This can be done by either selecting a song from the playlist, which will then show on the map where that song was played, or by directly interacting with the map by dragging the cursor. Monthly Overview Reflection The user can also view their running history over the months and reflect on progress, seeing what mood they usually feel throughout their runs. Sharing Armed with their music and experiences, the user can help others to achieve the same seamless flow of running by sharing their run experiences via social networking sites. The system will automatically post their track list with mood and activity associated with the userâ€™s run, and the user can input further reflections on the music list.
ENVISIONING PACE FOR OTHER INDIVIDUAL EXERCISES AND THE FUTURE Individual exercises are unique in that they not only help with people’s physical state but also enhance people’s mental and emotional state. People connect within themselves when they are engaged in an individual activity. However, current music systems for exercise do not encompass the emotional and mental aspects of exertion. Thus, users have to manually find and match songs before and during exercises. We envision a future where user experience is enhanced by systems that learn user’s common emotional states and performance to best generate music that can help enhance both the physical and emotional aspects of exercise. Hence, we see machine learning as an important tool to enhance users’ curatational prowess, allowing music to perfectly match exercise expereinces, bringing an ultimate state seamless flow to the user. Technology should be seamless and disappear into the background and fit into people’s lives, and with a few quick settings, a system should adapt to a user’s needs, eliminating the effort and disruption users face when using current systems.
CONCEPTUAL MAP Mood
Running Tempo Pace songs create optimal FLOW
Most runners use Pandora while they run. These songs chosen by artist stations are generally hit or miss for inducing flow.