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Android widgets may boost effectiveness of sleep-monitoring apps

( An effective smart phone application should make data collection easy, but not so easy that the user forgets to access and reflect on that information, according to a team of researchers. People who accessed a sleep monitoring app through a small display window -- often called a widget -- on an Android smart phone were more likely to manually enter their diary information, as well as interact with that data than users who monitored their sleep without the feature, according to Eun Kyoung Choe, assistant professor of information sciences and technology, Penn State. "As a human-computer interaction researcher, I'm interested in helping people collect their own health information for self-monitoring and also make sense of their data to gain insight. Engagement with data is really important in increasing their self-awareness," said Choe. "Automated sensing can lower the capture burden to collect a lot of data; however, the down side of that is it leads to less engagement with the data and less self-awareness." To promote both ease of entering and engaging with the data, the researchers developed an Android sleep monitoring app widget, called SleepTight, that served as a data capturing tool as well as providing visual reminders of the user's activities and sleep patterns. The widget would then appear on the home screen -- or lock screen -- of an Android phone. "The widget is not a full app, but it's a small window on the home screen where people can interact with the information and access the full app," said Choe. "We thought that maybe the widget could ease the capture burden, as well as ease the access burden." The researchers, who recruited 22 people for the study, found that participants who used the widget version of the app were more likely to enter daily sleep diary information into the app than those who did not use widgets. Sleep diary adherence was 92 percent for the participants who had the widgets installed on their app compared to 73 percent who used the app without the widget. Participants using the widget version also viewed the sleep summary page more than the participants who used the full app version. "This result indicates that the lock screen and home screen widgets reminded participants to view the sleep summary page and offered a shortcut to the sleep summary page," the researchers said. "Thus, we can conclude that widgets afford frequent self-reflection." Increased self-reflection, then, could improve the chances that users will make necessary behavioral changes to benefit their health, according to Choe who worked with Bongshin Lee, senior researcher at Microsoft Research and Matthew Kay, doctoral candidate in computer science, Wanda Pratt, professor in the information school and Julie A. Kientz, associate professor in human centered design and engineering, all of the University of Washington. The researchers, who presented their findings today (Sept.8) at the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, asked the participants during weekly surveys and exit interviews what they learned from the app. Participants using both versions of SleepTight showed signs of self-reflection and self-awareness. They indicated that they better understood sleep patterns, as well as other non-sleep activities that could influence those patterns, such as diet and alcohol use. Participants indicated that one drawback of using the widget was its lack of privacy compared to the full app. "Because the data is always on the lock screen, other people could see it," said Choe. "You might not feel comfortable with your boss looking over your shoulder and knowing that you had only two hours sleep the night before, or how many drinks you had." The widget feature is exclusive to the Android phone models. There is no iPhone widget variation.


The National Science Foundation and Intel Science and Technology Center for Pervasive Computing supported this work.


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Amsterdam, September 9, 2015 - A bioelectronic nose that mimics the human nose can detect traces of bacteria in water by smelling it, without the need for complex equipment and testing. According to a study published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics the technology works by using the smell receptors in the human nose. The sensor is simple to use and it can detect tiny amounts of contamination in water, making it more sensitive than existing detection methods. The authors of the study, from Seoul National University, say this could make the technology even more useful in ...

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Booster seat-aged children are twice as likely to suffer serious injury or death in a car crash than younger children but a new study shows they may be less likely to have car seats inspected for proper use. Less than a quarter of car seat and booster checks analyzed in the new University of Michigan Health System study were conducted in children ages four and older at car seat inspection stations in Michigan. Just 1 in 10, or 11 percent of inspections, covered booster seat-age children ages 4-7 while half were for rear-facing car seats. The findings, ...

How hashtags and @ symbols affect language on Twitter

Despite all the shortened words and slang seen on Twitter, it turns out that people follow many of the same communication etiquette rules on social media as they do in speech. Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that when tweeters use hashtags -- a practice that can enable messages to reach more people -- they tend to be more formal and drop the use of abbreviations and emoticons. But when they use the @ symbol to address smaller audiences, they're more likely to use non-standard words such as "nah," "cuz" and "smh." The study also found when people ...

How can one assess the effectiveness of hypnosis?

This news release is available in French. Although hypnosis has existed for hundreds of years, today it is still difficult to clearly judge its usefulness in the medical domain. In a report submitted to the French Directorate General for Health, researchers from Inserm led by Bruno Falissard assessed the effectiveness of this complementary medical practice for some of its indications (women's health, digestive ailments, surgery, psychiatry, etc.). The latter illustrates its therapeutic value during anaesthesia, and in the management of irritable bowel syndrome. It also ...

The sweet smell of success

Catch a whiff of an enchanting perfume, the sweet smell of freshly cut grass, newly baked bread, even the odor of two-stroke engine fumes, and many of us are whisked off to distant places in our memories. Smells trigger immediate emotional responses and marketing departments the world over have exploited this everywhere from supermarkets to car showrooms to help us part with our hard-earned cash. Now, writing in the International Journal of Trade and Global Markets, Shuvam Chatterjee of the Regent Education & Research Foundation, in Dhakuria, India, discusses the concept ...

Mindfulness may make memories less accurate

Mindfulness meditation is associated with all sorts of benefits to mental and physical well-being, but a new study suggests that it may also come with a particular downside for memory. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, show that participants who engaged in a 15-minute mindfulness meditation session were less able to differentiate items they actually encountered from items they only imagined. "Our results highlight an unintended consequence of mindfulness meditation: memories may be less accurate," ...

Making pharmaceuticals that degrade before they can contaminate drinking water

In recent years, researchers have realized that many products, including pharmaceuticals, have ended up where they're not supposed to be -- in our drinking water. But now scientists have developed a way to make drugs that break down into harmless compounds before they contaminate our taps. Their report appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology. A wide range of active ingredients originating from pesticides, shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, disinfectants and drugs get washed into sewage systems or rivers and streams, ending up in our tap water. Scientists ...

New Ebola test could help curb disease spread

Amsterdam, September 9, 2015 - A new Ebola test that uses magnetic nanoparticles could help curb the spread of the disease in western Africa. Research published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics shows that the new test is 100 times more sensitive than the current test, and easier to use. Because of this, the new test makes it easier and cheaper to diagnose cases, enabling healthcare workers to isolate patients and prevent the spread of Ebola. The authors of the study, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, say their new technology could be applied to the detection of any ...

Alzheimer's puts heavier economic burden on women

WASHINGTON, DC (September 9, 2015) -- Women are not only at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) when compared to men; per capita, they also bear six times the cost of AD care that men do, reports a study published today in the journal Women's Health Issues. Authors Zhou Yang of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and Allan Levey of the Emory University School of Medicine used a lifetime perspective to calculate AD costs to women and men based on three factors: the probability of developing AD, the disease's duration, and the required formal ...

Game-changing technology enables faster, cheaper gene editing

Within the past few years, a new technology has made altering genes in plants and animals much easier than before. The tool, called CRISPR/Cas9 or just CRISPR, has spurred a flurry of research that could one day lead to hardier crops and livestock, as well as innovative biomedicines. But along with potential benefits, it raises red flags, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society. Ann M. Thayer, a senior correspondent at C&EN, notes that scientists have long had the ability to remove, repair ...


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