The Amulet project launched in late 2013 with the vision of “bridging the gap between the type of pervasive computing possible with a mobile phone and that enabled by wearable computing.” Now, almost 10 years, 51 publications, and 29 core members (along with many collaborators) later, Amulet is coming to a close.
Amulet was featured in Forbes magazine, has been presented to audiences at many conferences and at an mHealth summit near Washington DC, was evaluated on usability in a study amongst rural older adults with obesity, and is impacting continued health research!
Many of our students have gone on to roles in industry and academia after graduation, and Ryan Halter, the Dartmouth co-PI on the project, co-founded a startup company, SynchroHealth, with technology originating in the Amulet project.
The Amulet prototype remains available (open source, open hardware) on GitHub, and our papers are available through our Zotero library.
We thank the countless number of people who have supported the project — from advisors, to NSF program officers, to graduate and undergraduate students, to study participants, to project leads, and to you all who have kept up with the project for its 10-year run.
The Amulet team has developed a Bluetooth-enabled handle for resistance exercise bands, and recently published a paper assessing the usability of the exercise system. The system wirelessly transmits relative force data through low-energy Bluetooth to a local smartphone or similar device.
The team had 32 young adults participate in three exercise sessions with the exercise band and then used an adapted version of the Usefulness, Satisfaction, and Ease (USE) questionnaire to understand the system’s usability. The questionnaire data reported a positive and consistent user experience; this is a promising indication that the device can be successfully incorporated into exercise interventions and that the system can be further developed and tested for the target population of older adults.
This paper includes patient and clinician feedback to better understand treatment progress and increase compliance in resistance-based physical activity to mitigate the effects of age-associated losses in muscle mass and strengths. This study aims to develop a mobile app for a novel device through a user-centered design process with both older adults and clinicians while exploring whether data collected through this process can be used in natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analysis. We used the Bing sentiment library for a sentiment analysis of interview transcripts and then applied NLP-based latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) topic modeling to identify differences and similarities in patient and clinician participant interviews. To assess utility, we used quantitative assessment questionnaires—System Usability Scale (SUS) and Usefulness, Satisfaction, and Ease of use (USE). We found a positive association with positive sentiment in an interview and SUS score (ß=1.38; 95% CI 0.37 to 2.39; P=.01), but no significant association between sentiment and the USE score. The LDA analysis found no overlap between patients and clinicians in the 8 identified topics. Involving patients and clinicians allowed us to design and build an app that is user friendly for older adults while supporting compliance. This is the first analysis using NLP and usability questionnaires in the quantification of user-centered design of technology for older adults.
Curtis Lee Petersen, Ryan Halter, David Kotz, Lorie Loeb, Summer Cook, Dawna Pidgeon, Brock C. Christensen, and John A. Batsis. Using Natural Language Processing and Sentiment Analysis to Augment Traditional User-Centered Design: Development and Usability Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth 8(8), page Article#e16862 (13 pages), August 2020. JMIR Publications. DOI: 10.2196/16862
Abstract: Timely detection of an individual’s stress level has the potential to improve stress management, thereby reducing the risk of adverse health consequences that may arise due to mismanagement of stress. Recent advances in wearable sensing have resulted in multiple approaches to detect and monitor stress with varying levels of accuracy. The most accurate methods, however, rely on clinical-grade sensors to measure physiological signals; they are often bulky, custom made, and expensive, hence limiting their adoption by researchers and the general public. In this article, we explore the viability of commercially available off-the-shelf sensors for stress monitoring. The idea is to be able to use cheap, nonclinical sensors to capture physiological signals and make inferences about the wearer’s stress level based on that data. We describe a system involving a popular off-the-shelf heart rate monitor, the Polar H7; we evaluated our system with 26 participants in both a controlled lab setting with three well-validated stress-inducing stimuli and in free-living field conditions. Our analysis shows that using the off-the-shelf sensor alone, we were able to detect stressful events with an F1-score of up to 0.87 in the lab and 0.66 in the field, on par with clinical-grade sensors.
ACM posted a video recording of the presentation of our paper, Experience: Design, Development and Evaluation of a Wearable Device for mHealth, at the annual ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom) last month in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Abstract: Wrist-worn devices hold great potential as a platform for mobile health (mHealth) applications because they comprise a familiar, convenient form factor and can embed sensors in proximity to the human body. Despite this potential, however, they are severely limited in battery life, storage, bandwidth, computing power, and screen size. In this paper, we describe the experience of the research and development team designing, implementing and evaluating Amulet – an open-hardware, open-software wrist-worn computing device – and its experience using Amulet to deploy mHealth apps in the field. In the past five years the team conducted 11 studies in the lab and in the field, involving 204 participants and collecting over 77,780 hours of sensor data. We describe the technical issues the team encountered and the lessons they learned, and conclude with a set of recommendations. We anticipate the experience described herein will be useful for the development of other research-oriented computing platforms. It should also be useful for researchers interested in developing and deploying mHealth applications, whether with the Amulet system or with other wearable platforms.
George Boateng, Vivian Genaro Motti, Varun Mishra, John A. Batsis, Josiah Hester, and David Kotz. Experience: Design, Development and Evaluation of a Wearable Device for mHealth Applications. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom), Article #31, October 2019. DOI 10.1145/3300061.3345432.
Another recent paper from John Batsis and the Amulet group, highlighting a custom sensor developed by our team and presented at the International Conference on Body Area Networks (ICBAN):
John A. Batsis, George G. Boateng, Lillian M. Seo, Curtis L. Petersen, Karen L. Fortuna, Emily V. Wechsler, Ronald J. Peterson, Summer B. Cook, Dawna Pidgeon, Rachel S. Dokko, Ryan J. Halter, and David F. Kotz. Development and Usability Assessment of a Connected Resistance Exercise Band Application for Strength-Monitoring. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 13(5):340-348, June 2019. DOI 10.5281/zenodo.
Abstract: Resistance exercise bands are a core component of any physical activity strengthening program. Strength training can mitigate the development of sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass or strength and function with aging. Yet, the adherence of such behavioral exercise strategies in a home-based setting is fraught with issues of monitoring and compliance. Our group developed a Bluetooth-enabled resistance exercise band capable of transmitting data to an open-source platform. In this work, we developed an application to capture this information in real-time and conducted three usability studies in two mixed-aged groups of participants (n=6 each) and a group of older adults with obesity participating in a weight-loss intervention (n=20). The system was favorable, acceptable and provided iterative information that could assist in future deployment on ubiquitous platforms. Our formative work provides the foundation to deliver home-based monitoring interventions in a high-risk, older adult population.
The following paper dates to last year, but is an important publication from the Amulet group:
John A. Batsis, Alexandra Zagaria, David F. Kotz, Stephen J. Bartels, George G. Boateng, Patrick O. Proctor, Ryan J. Halter, and Elizabeth A. Carpenter-Song. Usability evaluation for the Amulet wearable device in rural older adults with obesity. Gerontechnology, 17(3):151-159, 2018. DOI 10.4017/gt.2018.17.3.003.00.
Abstract: Mobile health (mHealth) interventions hold the promise of augmenting existing health promotion interventions. Older adults present unique challenges in advancing new models of health promotion using technology including sensory limitations and less experience with mHealth, underscoring the need for specialized usability testing. We use an open-source mHealth device as a case example for its integration in a newly designed health services intervention. We performed a convergent, parallel mixed-methods study including semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and questionnaires, using purposive sampling of 29 older adults, 4 community leaders, and 7 clinicians in a rural setting. We transcribed the data, developed codes informed by thematic analysis using inductive and deductive methods, and assessed the quantitative data using descriptive statistics. Our results suggest the importance of end-users in user-centered design of mHealth devices and that aesthetics are critically important. The prototype could potentially be feasibly integrated within health behavior interventions. Centralized dashboards were desired by all participants and ecological momentary assessment could be an important part of monitoring. Concerns of mHealth, including the prototype device, include the device’s accuracy, its intrusiveness in daily life and privacy. Formative evaluations are critically important prior to deploying large-scale interventions.
Today we presented an “Experience” paper at ACM MobiCom, summarizing the technology, the studies, and the challenges and lessons learned over seven years of research.
George Boateng, Vivian Genaro Motti, Varun Mishra, John A. Batsis, Josiah Hester, and David Kotz. Experience: Design, Development and Evaluation of a Wearable Device for mHealth Applications. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom), October 2019. DOI 10.1145/3300061.3345432.
Abstract: Wrist-worn devices hold great potential as a platform for mobile health (mHealth) applications because they comprise a familiar, convenient form factor and can embed sensors in proximity to the human body. Despite this potential, however, they are severely limited in battery life, storage, bandwidth, computing power, and screen size. In this paper, we describe the experience of the research and development team designing, implementing and evaluating Amulet? an open-hardware, open-software wrist-worn computing device? and its experience using Amulet to deploy mHealth apps in the field. In the past five years the team conducted 11 studies in the lab and in the field, involving 204 participants and collecting over 77,780 hours of sensor data. We describe the technical issues the team encountered and the lessons they learned, and conclude with a set of recommendations. We anticipate the experience described herein will be useful for the development of other research-oriented computing platforms. It should also be useful for researchers interested in developing and deploying mHealth applications, whether with the Amulet system or with other wearable platforms.
John Batsis and the Amulet team just published a paper regarding Use of Amulet in behavioral change for geriatric obesity management.
Background: Obesity in older adults is a significant public health concern. Weight-loss interventions are known to improve physical function but risk the development of sarcopenia. Mobile health devices have the potential to augment existing interventions and, if designed accordingly, could improve one’s physical activity and strength in routine physical activity interventions. Methods and results: We present Amulet, a mobile health device that has the capability of engaging patients in physical activity. The purpose of this article is to discuss the development of applications that are tailored to older adults with obesity, with the intention to engage and improve their health. Conclusions: Using a team-science approach, Amulet has the potential, as an open-source mobile health device, to tailor activity interventions to older adults.
John A. Batsis, Alexandra B. Zagaria, Ryan J. Halter, George G. Boateng, Patrick Proctor, Stephen J. Bartels, and David Kotz. Use of Amulet in behavioral change for geriatric obesity management. Journal of Digital Health, 5, June 2019. DOI 10.1177/2055207619858564.
David Kotz recently presented a paper titled Amulet: an open-source wrist-worn platform for mHealth research and education.
Abstract: The advent of mobile and wearable computing technology has opened up tremendous opportunities for health and wellness applications. It is increasingly possible for individuals to wear devices that can sense their physiology or health-related behaviors, collecting valuable data in support of diagnosis, treatment, public health, or other applications. From a researcher’s point of view, the commercial availability of these “mHealth” devices has made it feasible to conduct scientific studies of health conditions and to explore health-related interventions. It remains difficult, however, to conduct systems work or other experimental research involving the hardware, software, security, and networking aspects of mobile and wearable technology. In this paper we describe the Amulet platform, an open-hardware, open-software wrist-worn computing device designed specifically for mHealth applications. Our position is that the Amulet is an inexpensive platform for research and education, and we encourage the mHealth community to explore its potential.
In Workshop on Networked Healthcare Technology (NetHealth), pages 891-897, January 2019. IEEE Computer Society Press.