How your mobile can change your direction with “soft control”

How your mobile can change your direction with “soft control”

As though text-walking is not enough of an irritant, it now seems that gaming and incentives could provide a sort of crowd control.

Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, have been asking if mobile users can be persuaded to break their habits and visit less frequented areas.

In a new paper entitled, “Crowd (Soft) Control: Moving beyond the Opportunistic,” the team of researchers found a way to use games or social networking apps to move people around. So, in a game that might mean using AR or a scavenger-hunt style activity to get players to move to a different location for extra points or another reward.

To test the theory, researchers created Android games, including one called Ghost Hunter. Players chased around the University campus finding ghosts which may have appeared to be randomly placed in an AR environment, but in fact were designed to get the players to specific locations.

It’s interesting that people can be led astray by a clever program on their phone, but then you can also lead people to the pub by saying “Free beer”.

What is more intriguing is that getting people to different locations in the activity, the researchers were able to collect data about places that students did not tend to naturally visit on the campus and this provided new information about the site.

The researchers also found that students playing the game were prepared to travel far outside of their usual boundaries.

Fabian Bustamante, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the McCormick School of Engineering noted that this type of activity on a greater scale must also take into account the privacy of users and provide ways for them to understand what would happen with their data.

As a playful experiment to influence the physical activity of mobile users, this idea has the capability to become far more interesting for commercial use along with data gathering. So long as it doesn’t ask users to walk down a dark alley for a free iPad.

Would you take orders from your phone if the incentive was right?

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