ActiVibe: Design and Evaluation of Vibrations for Progress Monitoring

Jessica R. Cauchard, Janette L. Cheng, Thomas Pietrzak, James A. Landay
CHI: ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2016
Smartwatches and activity trackers are becoming prevalent, providing information about health and fitness, and offering personalized progress monitoring. These wearable devices often offer multimodal feedback with embedded visual, audio, and vibrotactile displays. Vibrations are particularly useful when providing discreet feedback, without users having to look at a display or anyone else noticing, thus preserving the flow of the primary activity. Yet, current use of vibrations is limited to basic patterns, since representing more complex information with a single actuator is challenging. Moreover, it is unclear how much the user--s current physical activity may interfere with their understanding of the vibrations. We address both issues through the design and evaluation of ActiVibe, a set of vibrotactile icons designed to represent progress through the values 1 to 10. We demonstrate a recognition rate of over 96% in a laboratory setting using a commercial smartwatch. ActiVibe was also evaluated in situ with 22 participants for a 28-day period. We show that the recognition rate is 88.7% in the wild and give a list of factors that affect the recognition, as well as provide design guidelines for communicating progress via vibrations.