(2010) Using social networks for estimating nutritional value of home cooking
Playtter is a social nutrition application that allows users to upload pictures of food using their mobile phone camera, and then visit the website to get feedback on the quality of their nutritional intake. Web users are free to access Playtter and “tag” random meals with nutritional information, following the UK “Eatwell” healthy diet guidelines.
Nutrition data for meals is generated based on aggregation of social opinion, and Playtter can then build up a profile of a user’s typical diet over the course of their usage. Using this longer term data, it is able to provide personalised recommendations to users based on their actual diet, without the intervention of 3rd party dieticians. This opens dietary feedback to the general population, who may be at high risk of diabetes and other negative health effects based on their diet.
Playtter is an evolution of a previous study into diet at LiSC called Tag-liatelle. As a game designer, I went into Playtter trying to apply game design principles to make food diaries into a playful and light experience for the user. Dietary and other medical interventions can usually be so serious and depressing. I really wanted Playtter to appeal to the curious and playful natures – it is simple to upload photos and there are very few barriers to quickly seeing what people are eating. This for me is the essence of “gamification” – trying to make non-game tasks appeal to playful natures.
There is also something really appealing about the voyeuristic aspect of seeing what other people are eating. The design tries to encourage this by using anonymity, and allowing non-users to contribute tags (the reward being to see more food).
Conor Linehan, Mark Doughty, Shaun Lawson, Ben Kirman, Patrick Olivier and Paula Moynihan (2010) Tagliatelle: social tagging to encourage healthier eating, Extended Abstracts of the ACM Conference on Human Factors (CHI), April 10-15 2010, ACM Press, Atlanta. (pdf)