What would you do with a free BodyMedia Sensewear Armband?

What would you do if you had access to accurate galvanic skin response (GSR), skin temperature, heat flux, and 3-axis accelerometer data, as well as processed data estimating calorie burn, physical activity levels, steps, and sleep?

One of the things I’ve learned moderating Quantified Self show&tell talks over the last five years is that the most interesting and inspiring projects depend first on interesting questions. The data, visualization, and analysis is important, of course. But the meaning rests on having a good question, on personal curiosity and interest.

In conjunction with our upcoming QS Europe Conference in Amsterdam on May 11/12, our friends at BodyMedia have agreed to donate a complete personal SenseWear System (retail price $2,500), a state-of-the-art wearable sensor that allows raw data output.

What we care about is your question, not your technical skills. I know that this amont of data is intimidating. But data analysis and visualization skills are very high in the QS Community, and we can help you find technical support.

So if you have an interesting question or project that you would like to pursue, please describe it in this thread. The winning idea will be chosen by us here at QS Labs based on its ability to inspire others in the QS community.

I would love to [attempt to] track and correlate sleep, activity, and anxiety (via GSR metrics.)

I would play around with it, use the API and integrate it into our product, http://www.vimify.com

I would use it to kick off a project that I’ve been thinking about. I’m interested in building something that would tie together lots of different types of data. E.g. sleep, fitness, heart rate, meals (with times), etc. I think that being able to correlate all of these different data sources might lead to some interesting findings.

One thing in particular that this device could help with (and where I’d really like to start) is that I’d like to build a custom data feed that includes some basic biometrics, like heart-rate and body temperature against different real life events. The software would monitor constantly throughout the day, and when it sees a delta over a couple of minutes, it asks you to note what you’re doing at the time. The idea is that over a period of time, you’ll be able to see stress triggers as well as things that help you to calm down.

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Ahh… Implement (and then, of course, analyze) “strategies of gamma” in my nutrition. Namely, throw the whole “eat such-and-such ratio of macronutrients at conventionally timed meals” paradigm out the window. Instead, eat ad libitum (logging as I go!) and studying the consequences in the realms of sleep, mood, HRV, other markers of health!

Next, expand this heuristic out to other spheres: does inducing irregularity in activity level (as I suspect characterized humankind for ~99.9% of its span) have salutary ripple effects? How about multi-phasic sleep choices?

I could go on… and shall, if I win! :wink:



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I’m a diabetic who controls glucose with a very carefully managed diet and lots of exercise. I’ve become more serious about my athletic pursuits as the exercise has brought my diabetes under control, and have used a variety of tools to track activity, calories and carbs. (and I’m a data analyst by trade, so I like to collect and analyze data). Trying to train an aging body while on a controlled, low-carb diet is a balancing act, and I’ve become a bit obsessed about my tracking.

I use a Zeo to track sleep, a FitBit for general activity tracking and a heart-rate monitor & GPS tracking app for exercise. I also track all my food, weight, blood pressure and, of course, blood glucose. Using multiple devices and tools is cumbersome, and introduces inconsistencies in the data. I would use to a BodyMedia Sensewear in the hope that I could get a better read on over-all activity from a single device.

My current goal is to spread my activity across the day to avoid long stretches of inactivity. That’s better for glucose management. I would prefer a single system that gives me a consistent measure of activity throughout the day (and night for that matter).

If I had a Sensewear Armband I would continue my efforts to co-relate my food consumption and physical activities with mental performance under conditions of stress, but with a much greater fidelity than the rudimentary notes that I am currently making.

Really? I’m the only person whose first thought was that I could finally collect enough data to optimize my masturbation habits? It’s attached to your arm and has an accelerometer, so it could pick up, uh, arm movement. Heat flux, temp, and GSR could all be useful in measuring, uh, response to stimuli. Couple this data with my web history and some other auxiliary data, and I think there’s some lessons to be learned.

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Simply put – I’d do the same thing everyone else in this group would do. Use this physiological microscope for a taste of insight. Data changes behavior. And the more we have, the more rich the data, the greater the insight.
Awhile back I started working in the field of applied neuroscience. Because I had the functional neuroimaging equipment and software available, I began ‘brain mapping’ myself. It was a convenient way to get new data so I could learn the analysis. Early on it was easy to see patterns emerge. Especially with sleep. I had always had poor sleep and had grown accustomed to this setback. But seeing the neurophysiological fluctuations really freaked me out….in a good way though. It was the first time it occurred to me that my actions had a direct relationship to sleep quality. This led to insights into mood and attention, etc. Long story short, I was hooked, which led me to this group.

So what would I do with the Senseware?..I’m not exactly sure, I think the point is more post hoc. Data tells a story and adds a sort of third voice that allows this feedback loop to exist.

Either way, I’m excited for whoever gets the chance, best to all.

  • KD

I’d love to cross the data from the Sensewear Kit with Brainwave activity measured by my NeuroSky MindWave.

Questions that could be explored include:

When I run, am I more relaxed (meditative state) or focused (attentive state)?

If I want to help myself be more focused and alert, which physical conditions should I try to stimulate in myself?

How stressed am I at work?

How can I best alleviate stress at work (or whenever)?

(in response to mead3r) During masturbation, am I more focused or meditative?

How do my brain and body react to social situations? (stress levels, attention, brain wave patterns)

Which stressors are positive ones (stimulating healthy alertness) and which are negative ones (stimulating unhealthy stress reactions)?


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What I’d do would ideally require two bands; short of that, it’d still be useful with just one.

I’m keenly interested in what’s happening in our bodies when we interact with other people. Questions worth asking:

  • what happens leading up to a positive interaction with a friend, family member, or significant other?

  • what’s happening in the body when parenting little children?

  • what’s going on during work meetings? Presentations?

  • what happens when we relax with friends?

  • if you had two armbands (one for me/one for my wife), what happens on days of physical intimacy? What happens leading up to and during an intense argument? What’s going on when a couple works together on a project?


Separate from the above, I’d be curious to see the fluctuations in data outputs while applying an intermittent fasting + up day (high calorie, heavy weight lifting exercise)/down day (caloric restriction, rest day) diet/lifestyle a la LeanGains.com. What are the impacts of caloric restriction? What about fasted weight training? How long does the impact of fasted training last? What happens on a 12 - 14 hour fast after a workout/high calorie day ends (a feast day)? Where is the body some 36 hours after the last “feast” and immediately prior to an intense weight lifting workout?

Due to the fluctuations innate to this kind of diet/lifestyle, the outputs should vary a good deal from day to day but be somewhat consistent week over week.

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I would use it to provide early feedback to obese people who are trying on new behaviors - for example, moving around more, but are not yet seeing any movement on the scale. Lack of positive feedback is one of the biggest barriers to maintaining an exercise program - people say “this isn’t working, why bother!” It would be great to show progress, keep people exercising and in some cases, get them off some of their meds.

If I could assess the mineral content of their sweat, I’m curious whether it could also provide feedback on glycemic index (e.g., are numbers improving? How does showing these results impact behavior? How many continuous days of positive feedback does it actually take to gain momentum for a habit? Can this kind of nuanced feedback activate the inactive?)

I know several fitness facilities who would likely be willing beta program sites.

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There are two questions I am currently interested in testing:

  1. How does cold shower therapy affect sleep, calorie burn, skin temperature, stress, and activity level?
  2. How does hydration affect these same factors?

I have been taking cold showers recently because I keep reading about the benefits for muscle recovery. I feel great after doing them, but I haven’t been able to quantify the impact they are having. With the SenseWear, it’d be interesting to test the difference in measurements on days when taking cold showers, hot showers, or no shower.

Also, I’ve been interviewing physicians recently and many talk about the importance of drinking 8 glasses of water a day. I want to test the assumption that drinking more water has a beneficial impact on these factors and quantify the result.

As an added test, I want to quantify how cold showers and hydration impact crossfit workouts. There is a huge crossfit audience and my hypothesis is that taking cold showers after workouts and increasing water consumption will help improve our ability to perform and recover.

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This question actually got me to finally register.

I have a constellation of health problems which I suspect are related. I see several different types of professionals, but in my heart, I know they are all connected, and my quest is to figure out how.

  1. asthma, which I currently track by measuring peak flow twice a day, and comparing to air quality and weather information from NOAA, along with times that I use my inhaler(s). I already know that my asthma triggers include certain environmental allergens, viruses, and cold air, but there may be others I don’t know about.
  2. an anxiety disorder, which I track by measuring my mood and counting the times that I engage in Bad Habits. I am still unsure what triggers episodes here.
  3. rosacea, which I track by recording break-outs, along with my alcohol and caffeine consumption and other things I think might be triggers for breakouts such as cold air exposure (but still unsure here too)
  4. allergies, which may interact with both 1 and 3, but maybe also 2?

Using a FitBit, I also record my physical activity and sleep habits, but I’m frustrated by the device’s limitations. Oh, and I also track my menstrual cycle, major projects at my job (e.g. external stressors), and keep lists of the people I interact with each day (both positive/negative interactions).

My dream is to find a discernible pattern between my various daily habits that will clue me into what activities I need to avoid (cold air? certain people at work? certain foods?) to help me improve my daily life. What are the common triggers between ailments? Which factors interact? I think that being able to measure GSR, skin temperature, and heat flux would be immensely helpful to understanding my body’s response to various emotional and environmental stressors, and might give me the additional information I need to crack this puzzle.

*Note that items 1 and 2 have significant effects on my life. I’ve been in the ER for asthma more times than I’d like, both as a child and an adult. As a child I spent time in an inpatient psych unit for 2, which I’ve been able to avoid as an adult–I do take medicines that help my disorder but also cause side effects I don’t like. I’d love to stop taking the meds, and I think a better understanding of my body-mind connection could help me with this.

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I’d love to use this to track a few factors related to mood disorders and anxiety:

  1. Daily movement correlation with self-reported mood data
  2. Galvanic skin response, skin temperature and heat flux before, during and after panic attacks
  3. Sleep pattern correlation with both of the above
  4. After enough data is collected on the first three, track how specific changes in diet, exercise and meditation affect mood, anxiety and sleep.

It would be great to collect enough data from (2) to attempt to detect early physical signs of hypomania and anxiety, and prompt the user to take corrective actions.

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Because of QS, we all know so much about how individuals track themselves.

One largely unexplored area is how individuals track others in non-medical contexts. There’s evidence showing that social facilitation and reinforcement aids in attaining self-tracking goals. But what if one person instigates and manages the tracking of another?

So I’d like to ask a question that takes this one step further: “What can we learn about self-tracking that is instigated by and facilitated by another person who is not a health care practitioner?”

In other words, what happens when a friend, relative, coach or total stranger gives you a self-tracking device and watches closely as you use it, steering you and encouraging you along the way?

Is there a new role for a peer-2-peer self-tracking coach?

What can we learn with peer-2-peer tracking?

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Build an as complete as possible raw data set for use in future projects to remix QS data and learn how we can build a QS ecosystem where data can be saved, annotated, shared, visualized, analyzed and more.

The SenseWear data is one of the first great examples of complex, raw(!) data. This is definitely a way for other systems to follow. Augmenting the raw data SenseWear data with new and upcoming data sources (Google Glass video, Openpaths.cc location data, Memomo photos, Fitbit steps, Withings bloodpressure/weight etc) - this could become the first full open data set for researchers, developers and enthusiasts. We can learn how things know to software developers (merge, pull, fork) would work in a world of QS data scientists. From this, with the help of BodyMedia, we can explore what is needed to share, annotate and use data from complex QS devices to make the data accessible and useful.

One of the pitfalls of current healthcare is the lack of interoperability - I would like QS not to suffer from the same problem in the (near) future.

[color=#000080]I don’t want to comment too much at this stage except to say I’m very glad to see interest in many of the questions posed, and I look forward to discussing these projects at the upcoming Amsterdam conference.

Please feel free to discuss these ideas here or in other parts of the forum, the announced goal of the contest was to provoke good QS questions, which should lead to useful interaction of many types, regardless of who walks away with the device.

Below I post a response from a QS participant who wants to remain anonymous. Since the goal of the contest is learning, all entries have to be public, but there’s no reason the identity of the entrants has to be public. I’m happy to offer anonymous re-posting for anybody who has a proposal that they prefer to present without sharing their identity.

*Crowdsourcing me and you to a healthier life * by anonymous

In my life, you can probably find some of almost every problem that’s been discussed here: I don’t sleep well, I do hours of sedentary work every day, I suffer from significant social anxiety, I’m tired most days of the week, I have some asthma. On the other hand, I’ve been implementing more and more habits in the last year or so that have already helped me and that have helped others also: exercise, meditation, changes in diet and daily rhythms. With some success! I weigh more, my work schedule is becoming better, I quit smoking, I feel more attractive then a year ago… Also I’m in a wonderful relationship and I really like my job. There are still plenty of things that I’m struggling with though.

What I’ll do:

I’ll wear the device daily, and follow my usual routine. Data from the device will be freely available. First, this might just be an ftp server with raw data, but as the project develops, who knows what way of publishing the data might be useful. You may do with the data whatever you want, use it to test your software, train your data analysis skills, prove me wrong, prove me right or do something entirely else.
I’ll also publish additional data organised in experiments: The data that the bodysense device gathers is not enough, sometimes it must be complimented by my subjective experience or other biophysiological data in order to be useful. But I can’t track all at once and it might be considered a waste of time to do it. Changing simple things in simple designs (gluten/no gluten) allows me to disentangle their effects. The amount of additional measures will be limited by what fits on a single IPad screen (browser window).I will answer questions and take suggestions with respect to the experiment or what’s supposed to go on my IPad screen. (moving averages, visual scales, use me as your guinea pig)
I’ll be ruthless: when I conduct an experiment you’ll get the data, whether it will be food, sex, drugs or rock n roll.
I’ll moderate a data-analysis wiki/cookbook so that all the methods that have been used on the data are properly documented.
What I need:

the kit, total anonymity to anyone except to Ernesto and Gary and some help in order to get a website running that streams my data to the cloud and publishes it informatively. To give you a taste of what kind of additional data (with which you can do whatever you want) I’d be willing (and able) to share, attached to this post you can find:

a picture of an MRI scan (3T, raw anatomical data) of my brain (more are being made soon on a better scanner) a picture of averaged electrical activity of my brain in response beeps: the difference in between the red and the blue line is 4 hours of learning! (this is an older device but I also preordered the MUSE) my ‘productivity’ of the last couple of days in rescue time

What intrigues me the most is what you will come up with and how the data analysis cookbook/wiki will develop: I think the greatest potential of this effort would really be to have a collaborative resource of data AND analysis methods/scripts AND good experimental design. Half tutorial, half collaborative experiment… All the recipes are there for you to use on your own data as well.

Hope to see you all in Amsterdam!
a friend :slight_smile:
PS: I’ve also decided to put up another file: a quick and dirty cortical thickness measurement shows that the thickness of my grey matter in areas responsible for motor planning (I’m notoriously bad at ball games) is actually relatively low (blueish) compared to the rest (greenish) or frontal areas (which I need for my day-job). If you get an MRI, you can do this, too. If you have two, you can compare over time. :slight_smile: If you have a bodymedia, who knows what you can do?

Links to images:

I’ve been tracking a bunch of things over the past 4-12 months: mood, alcohol and soda consumption, faps, sexual encounters, ejaculatory latency time (ELT) for those encounters (it’s a really awkward measurement), sleeping meds, flossing, steps, hours slept (and sometimes ZQ), food, and places I visit. I know that I get in a depressed and unproductive mood from time to time, and my intuition is that it’s driven by either not sleeping enough or fapping too much.

I imagine it’d be relatively easy to calculate fapping ELT from the accelerometer. The combination of that calculated measure, and GSR and heat flux, would make a decent proxy for effort expended. And, if I were to propose a single hypothesis to test, it’d be that if I’m working too hard on fapping it’s going to throw me into a unproductive funk for (at least) the remainder of the day. I think there’s science to support this, as fapping changes estrogen and testosterone levels, and testosterone can be involved in depression (there’s a really good TAL episode about testosterone that discusses some of this). So, if it’s not going to happen quickly, then I’ve probably done it too much and the next one could be the one that screws me over.

So, yeah, I’d use it to optimize my masturbation habits. Because that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about an accelerometer strapped to my arm and, more importantly, because this device would actually make it possible to collect data necessary to do such an experiment. :slight_smile:

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Here a project (that I would do if I had a bodymedia) that may be useful to gain some insight into subjective experiences during exercise:

Setup a sequence of exercise tasks such as:
a standardized warmup
100m sprint
body weight exercises: pushups, squats, pullups, planks, etc
could add other things

Have each person wear the bodymedia, record performance measures (time in 100m, # of reps in given time), record BORG scale (rate of perceived exertion) score for each individual task and an overall BORG scale measure for the whole thing.

The data could be explored to look at the relationship between what the bodymedia is recording and how people experience the exercise.

Maybe if the exercise tasks were standardized enough (clear instructions given) this could be reproduced by individuals around the world and then their data submitted to a central spreadsheet…

-Philip Goebel

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