SqueezeBands: Hugging Through the Screen

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A woman raises her hand towards a webcam during a videochat with a friend. Her hand is encased in a cloth device with shape memory alloy springs.
Lucy and Jackie demonstrate using SqueezeBands to send a high five! The camera detects mutual gestures like this one and creates a sensation of touch by squeezing and heating each person’s hand band.

 

When I Skype with my family, I really wish that I could reach through the screen to give them a hug! Instead, we sometimes have to pretend—we lean forward “hugging” the monitor or bring our hands towards the camera to do a virtual “high five.” What if you could actually feel some of that touch instead of just having to imagine it?

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87% of People Got This Question about Their Door Lock Wrong!

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You drive home and park. Your car is full of groceries and other shopping, which take many trips to bring into the house. Five minutes after you drove in, you are still making trips to the car. Is the door locked or unlocked?” What if I told you that 87% of people got this question wrong? Sensors and “smart” devices for your home may hold the promise of making life more convenient, but they may also make it harder to understand and predict things like the state of you “smart” door lock in common situations like the one above. Want to give it a try?

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Children as Inventors of Happiness Technologies

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Happiness is a practice. People can achieve happiness by applying specific skills to their interaction with the world. These skills include gratitude (reflecting on and expressing thankfulness for positive aspects of one’s life), mindfulness (practicing awareness and acceptance of the present moment), and problem solving (reflecting on thoughts and feelings to find alternative interpretations and solutions). About 44% of school in the U.S. include programs that teach such social and emotional skills to children (e.g., Penn Resiliency Program), and a number of investigations have demonstrated the effectiveness of these approaches. However, one of the challenges faced by school-based programs is that they provide few (if any) opportunities for children to extend the practice of these skills to their lives outside of the classroom. Technology may help address this gap by providing engaging opportunities to revisit happiness practices outside of the classroom and integrate them into the everyday lives of children.

Prof. Stephen Schueller (Clinical Psychologist, Northwestern University) and I partnered to consider and design new technologies to support children in practicing gratitude, mindfulness, and problem solving skills. While Stephen has a great deal of expertise in positive psychology and I know a fair bit about designing technology for children, we also wanted to make sure that our approach represented children’s voices, priorities, and values. We collaborated with the Y.O.U. (Youth & Opportunity United) summer program to train twelve children in becoming “Happiness Inventors.” Through fourteen 90-minute sessions, we worked with the children to understand their definitions of happiness, to teach them age-appropriate gratitude, mindfulness, and problem solving exercises, and to provide them with the knowledge and structure to become inventors of new technologies to help kids practice happiness skills. Through these session, children brainstormed over 400 ideas and developed many of these ideas as sketches, prototypes, and videos. The video the children made documenting a few of their outcomes is below.

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Cross-Cultural Parenting and Technology

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Some ideas for new technology inspired by our interviews with cross-cultural families!
Some ideas for new technology inspired by our interviews with cross-cultural families!

 

My parents had two primary sources for parenting advice: my grandparents and the Dr. Spock book. If you are a parent today, you know that this is no longer the case! Millions of sources in printed literature, online, and in your local community all have opinions on how you should parent! How do parents manage so many diverse opinions? What happens when the values of the parents conflict with their community, with other family members, or even with each other? We thought that cross-cultural families (where the two parents are from different cultures or who are raising their child in a different culture from their own) may have a particularly salient perspective to offer on these important questions.

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YouthTube: Youth Video Authorship on YouTube and Vine

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It’s 2015, do you know what your kids are posting online? Children and teenagers use public video platforms like YouTube and Vine to share their stories. Knowing more about what and how they share could help us design tools that encourage creativity and self-expression while helping young people reflect on online safety and privacy. To find out more about what youth video authors do online, we conducted a study that looked at over 300 recently-shared youth authored videos.

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