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Using Virtual Worlds to 'Soft Control' People's Movements in the Real One


Northwestern University professor Fabian Bustamante

Northwestern University professor Fabian Bustamante's team designed a way to 'soft control' smartphone users' actions.

Credit: Northwestern University

Northwestern University researchers have found they can influence smartphone users' movements by creating mobile games that have incentives designed to steer people toward specific locations. "We can rely on good luck to get the data that we need, or we can 'soft control' users with gaming or social network incentives to drive them where we want them," says Northwestern professor Fabian Bustamante.

The researchers developed Ghost Hunter, a game that offers points if a player visits a certain location in the real world. The researchers tested Ghost Hunter on the Northwestern University campus using student volunteers. The game instructed them to follow ghosts around the campus and take pictures of them using the smartphone camera. However, the researchers actually used the pictures to analyze photos of Northwestern's Charles Deering Library from numerous angles and directions. "Playing the game seemed to be a good enough vehicle to get people to go to these places," says Northwestern graduate student John P. Rula.

The researchers say the program could be used on a wide scale to collect data for monitoring noise pollution and air quality, although Bustamante says users would need to be notified that their data was being collected.

From Northwestern University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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