The Stepmatron project delivered a pilot study of a persuasive application to change behaviour. The concept falls into the domain of ‘games for health’: the idea that the engaging power of multi-player computer-mediated games can be harnessed to raise individual and group awareness of health related issues and, ultimately, change the behaviour of those individuals and groups.
Stepmatron focused on the use of social networking site Facebook as a delivery mechanism for presentation of people’s everyday activity levels whilst at work. Activity levels were presented in a game-like format so people could view their own activity along side a visualisation of their friends’ activities. The basic persuasive mechanism evaluated was that if people can recognise that their own personal activity levels falls below the norm (for example a normalised average of their group of co-workers’ activity) then they will be motivated to increase their own personal activity.
The pilot also included a comparative usability evaluation of three commercially available digital pedometers for suitability in the study using the CELLO  and NASA TLX (Task Load Index)  methods. The quality of the end-user’s interaction was the focus of the usability evalution with the user experience of using the various pedometers analysed.
Ten participants (1 male), all nurses working in a UK hospital, used the Stepmatron Facebook application and a simple pedometer across two conditions over the course of the study. In the socially-enabled condition, participants could view each other’s step data and make comparisons and comments. In the non-social condition, participants could only view their own personal step data. A significant increase in step activity was observed in the socially enabled condition. Our findings highlight the potential of social media as a means for generating positive behaviour change. They also suggest that simple mobile devices can function as an inexpensive, accessible and powerful trigger towards this behaviour change without necessitating the use of overly complex and expensive mobile applications or devices.
The published paper on Stepmatron scooped the ACM best academic paper award at Mindtrek 2010 Conference in Tampere, Finland.
For more information, see the paper or contact Derek Foster (email@example.com).
 EMMU, (1999) Cello: Evaluation by Inspection, available from http://www.ucc.ie/hfrg/emmus/methods/cello.html
 NASA TLX, (2009) NASA TLX Homepage, available from http://humansystems.arc.nasa.gov/groups/TLX