Moving Toward a Less Sitting Life

An creative product with physical computing and playful and open-ended interactions is formed to reduce sedentary behaviour in office.

By Zebing Yao

Project Background & Aims

Sedentary behaviour is a behaviour that sitting or lying down for long periods.

Long-time sitting can raise the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and poor mental health (Owen et al., 2014).

It exists in a large number of people’s daily life. On average, sedentary activity occupies 8 to 10 hours per day for adults (Safe Work Australia, 2019).

Around 98% of participants who have this behaviour believe that sitting for long periods negatively affect health; however, only half of them tried to change it (Move More Sit Less, 2016).

As a team: What we want to do is to help people who need to seat for long periods because of study or work to reduce the sedentary behaviour in order to alleviate the impact of this behaviour to health.

As an individual: I focus on how to reduce it among office workers, since sedentary behaviour commonly exists among them. For instance, they spent around 10.5 hours/day on it. So, with the longer sitting time and low awareness of long-time sitting, its impacts on health are more severe.

Insights & Concept

Exporing the domain from different perspectives

6 features on the right are the key requirements, needs, and functions for solving the problem space. They are formed based on four steps: Interviews with target audience (office workers), literature study to find out extra insights to reduce the long time sitting behaviour, the analysis of the relationship between the studio context 'Bothersome Design' and the domain, and prototype testing with target audience.

Ease of Use & Relax

Workplace Friendly

Reminder & Information

Portability & Flexibility

Bothersome Design

Multiple Users Involved

Concept - Two Strip Patches

It’s targeted to office workers who have sedentary behaviour. This concept addresses its negative effects by providing visual and playful interactions, which aims to increase the user’s awareness of long-time sitting and reduce the sitting time by encourage the user to do light activities.

They are two patches with a display area on the front and attachable material on the back. They can be attached anywhere on the clothes, which aims to provide a more flexible and personalized way to wear them. The main patch starts to count the time after seating down, and the sitting time shows on the display area. It can be paused by simply take them off. Also, the main patch would begin to vibrate constantly as a reminder when it reaches one hour.

The system would then link all users who have seated for around one hour together. These users need to find each other in order to stop the vibration, and their directions are displayed on the patch as an arrow so that they are able to find each other by following the hint.

After gathering users together, an interactive game called ‘pass bomb’ that aims to stretch body would be activated: one patch among them would be selected and activated with a certain flashing frequency. The frequency would increase with time, and the 'bomb' would 'explode' when it reaches a certain frequency. The punishment is the vibration strength would increase on that user for 5 minutes, which aims to make it more annoying.

So, they need to pass the bomb to other users before it explodes. They can do it through simply touching the activated patch. They are able to stretch their bodies while passing the bomb. Such as touching arms and legs. Users can back to work after the game finished.


Constructing the prototype based on the provided materials and the concept

Functions & Technology

Achieved Functions

'Pass Bomb' Interactive Game

Identify Seating

Count Seating time

Annoying Vibration

Simulated Functions

Pause the Devices by Take Them Off

Based on providede materials and the research of extra Arduino components, this feature cannot be achieved without placing a detector on the user's clothes, which conflicts with the insight that the design should be easy to use and portable. So, I simulated this feature in this project.

Display Other Users' Directions

The indoor location system cannot be implemented due to technical limitations. A third party location system or a floor plan of an office might be needed in order to locate and identify devices' directions and locations.

Annoying Vibration

This is achieved by my teammate Toby, a vibration module was used to create the annoying feeling. Also, through controlling the vibration strength to adjust how the product annoys the user.


This feature is implemented by using a vibration motor.

The vibration motor is placed inside the patch, so when it starts vibrating, the user would have a strong feeling.

Moreover, it's strength could be adjusted via coding.

As you can see, through changing the number on the right, the strength could be adjusted. The higher number the stronger vibration strength.

Thus, combining with other features, such as sitting time counting, we are able to activate the vibration model to annoy the user and let he/she to take an action.

Count Sitting Time

The sitting time is recorded in the system, and it keeps tracking the value from the pressure sensor inside the patch. So, it is able to detect the user is seating or standing.


This feature is implemented by using a neo-pixel ring and Arduino time monitor function. Also, it works with the seating identifying feature.

Firstly, the neo-pixel ring connects to the GND, 5 volts, and pin 2 on the Arduino Nano board so that it can receive signal (seating time) from the system.

Once the user seats down, the pressure pad would capture that signal, and send it to system.

Then, every 5 min, a LED would be activated through set a specific LED with a color on it.

Based on the activated LEDs, users are able to identify how long they have seated.

Identify Seating

In order to reduce sedentary behaviour, it is necessary to identify whether the user is seating or not so that their long-time sitting behaviour could be monitored.


This feature is achieved by implementing a pressure sensor and a patch model.

The pressure sensor is placed inside the patch model, and the model is placed on the chair. So, when the user seats on the chair, the sensor would receive the data from the user, and then tell the system the user is seating.

As you can see, the number inside the if-condition is the strength captured by the pressure sensor. So, through comparing the number, the system is able to identify the user is seating or not.

Also, if the user stands up, the data received by the sensor would be 0, then the system would realise the user stands up.

However, it might be a mistake if the user just want tp move his/her body. So, a 10 seconds waiting time is set to monitor whether the user would seat on the chair again in short period of times or not.

'Pass Bomb' Interactive Game

This feature is one of the core features of the concept. It aims to motivate users to do light activities such as walking and body stretch so that the negative effects caused by long-time sitting could be alleviated. It is also a reflection to the studio context that creating playful and open-ended interactions.


This feature is achieved by implementing a pressure sensor, a patch model, a neo-pixel ring, and transceiver modules.

Two transceiver modules are used to communicate data between two devices. So, multiple users are able to interact with each other in the same space like office.

Firstly, the transceiver modules need to be set up. It connects to 5 pins, from pin D9 to D13. Also, a network channel needs to be defined with one master module and several child modules.

When user pressed an activated patch, the data would be sent to another user via the channel. And the transceiver module on another device would capture that signal, and activate the LEDs.

On the other hand, a flashing frequency such as 2 second is set in the device. It decreases with time.

It is sent between users through the transceiver modules.

The idea of this feature's coding is activating and turnning off all LEDs on a patch for, such as, 2 seconds repeatedly so that it looks like it's flashing all the time.

Design Process

Step 1: Domain Research & Studio Context

Firstly, the domain Sedentary Behaviour in Offices was explored, and a number of initial insights were formed in order to create the initial concept. For example, wearable technology can be the prime technology in the concept since the product may require high portability in office environment. Also, walking and standing periodically (every 55 minuets) are the most suitable and easiest way to decrease the negative effects caused by sedentary behaviour. So, the basic purpose of the concept is to let users do light-activities like walking.

Step 2: Initial Concept

A concept was formed based on all resource and information I got. It is a bit similar to the current concept but the playful interaction and some details are different. Click here to see the orginal concept.

Step 3: Interview with Office Workers

This step has two main goals. Firstly, to discover their requirements and needs in terms of reducing the sedentary behaviour, and find out whether their characteristics can affect them to take actions to reduce the behaviour. Moreover, to identify the original concept’s problems. Based on their feedback, a number of insights mentioned above are formed, such as the product should be easy to use with hight flexibility. Also, a key insight that multiple users could be involved was formed. It can actually be an advantage/resource that private spaces do not have. If multiple people can be connected to take same actions together such as walking or stretching, then users might be more likely to do light-activities.

Step 4: First Prototype Building & Testing

An initial prototype was formed based on the informaiton obtained from previous steps, and it was tested with five target audience. A number of aspects of the prototype and the concept could be improved. For instance, instruction of using the product should be more clear; put the seating detect sensor on the chair would be better since the playful interaction does not need it; it could be paused for any circumstances such as meeting; consider how to make the interaction more interesting.

Step 5: Extra Research, Concept Improvement & Prototype Adjustment

Based on the feedback from step 4, concept was improved. For example, the implementation of the interactive game, involving punishment, pause function, and proper guidance to use the product. Finally, the prototype was adjusted, such as implementing the 'pass bomb' game and improving the prototype's apperance as the one in prevous section.

Outcomes & Reflections

Firstly, one of studio contexts that creating a Bothersome design for everyday life is successfully achieved in both concept and the prototype. Based on the interview feedback from target audience, they responded that the vibration in the patch annoys them, and it caused them to try to find ways to stop the vibration. Also, it’s strength is acceptable in office environment that it did not negatively affect their working efficiency. On the other hand, the concept satisfies another studio context that creating playful interactions; however, the prototype does not fully match this context since the ‘box’ in the prototype is not that easy to be placed on clothes, and it affects the user experience when they were trying to touch the patches, such as they feel a bit uncomfortable when moving arms, it is a bit heavy to carry, or it might drop if the user moves his/her arms really fast. In terms of this feedback, for the future iteration/ suggestion, the main idea is to reduce its size, especially for the ‘box’. Since the box includes essential components of the prototype such as sensors, modules, and battery, the size of the prototype is a bit large. So, Arduino might not be suitable to be implemented in this project, and it might be better to find other solutions to compile and build up the prototype or, place the essential devices inside the clothes so that users do not need to place the ‘box’ on their clothes.

For the overall user experience and interaction process, the prototype and concept are both successful. Firstly, although the sitting time displaying area has been changed to LEDs in the prototype, users are able to identify the meaning of the LEDs on the patch. Moreover, the connection of each parts, such as moving from sitting to finding other users and starting to play the game are acceptable. However, some connection could be better improved, such as the direction lights appeared a bit fast, its connection to the previous part is not smooth enough. So, some parts of connection could be improved such as fading the light while moving to next part so that users are able to understand it reaches the end of the current event.

On the other hand, users are supposed to be relax after using it, which is one of the most important aims of this project. Based on feedback, it satisfies users requirements and needs for relaxing body. For example, through passing the bomb, they kept touching their arms and legs for 1 to 2 minutes, which reduces the body stress after long-time sitting. Moreover, it did not make them tired after using it, instead, they responded that it is interesting and it is a good way to get to know other colleagues. So, it not only helps users to relax, but also help them to improve/enhance the relationship between other colleagues.

Therefore, the overall design of the prototype and concept match the success criteria and objectives mentioned in the previous report.