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SMART IDEAS / BATHROOMS

Fat Aussies See Themselves Differently

By Rob Gillam | Wednesday | 17/05/2006

A new high-tech mirror offers on-the-slide Aussies a look into their future.

Accenture today unveiled an experimental "mirror" that shows unhealthy eaters what they could look like in the future if they fail to improve their diets. The device - known as the Persuasive Mirror - is aimed at developing technologies that encourage people to maintain healthy lifestyles in order to avoid obesity and related health problems. 

The mirror was developed at Accenture Technology Labs, where it says researchers strive to embed technologies into ordinary household items, thereby allowing users to gain valuable health information just by going about their daily activities. Accordingly, the prototype was built to look like a standard bathroom mirror. Operation requires that users do nothing more than look at their "reflections." But the operational simplicity belies the device's complex technology.
 
The "mirror" uses two cameras placed on the sides of a flat-panel display and combines video streams from both cameras to obtain a realistic replication of a mirror reflection.  Advanced image processing and proprietary software are used to visually enhance the person's reflection.  
 
The Persuasive Mirror can also be configured to accept other health-related data. For instance, it can show the consequences of too much time spend in the sun, or calculate the benefits of data provided by devices such as a pedometer worn during a brisk walk or run.  Future iterations will also calculate the effects of other unhealthy behaviours such as drinking, smoking or drug use.  
 
"One of the key solutions experts identify for solving the growing problems caused by poor diet, including obesity, inactivity and smoking is a change in personal habits," said Accenture's Martin Illsley. "This led us to think about using technology as a persuasion tool, specifically how technology can be used to create the kind of motivation and personal awareness that will change unwanted behaviours."
 
Illsley and his team concluded that for any technology dealing with diet and exercise habits to be persuasive, it needed to be highly visual.  They realised that a mirror that projects the image of how the individual's face and body will look in the future if habits are poor - or, conversely, improve - could best drive home the point.
 
 "We monitor the individual's habits in terms of diet and exercise and whether or not they smoke or spend much time in the sun, and by focusing on the face and body visually project how he or she will look in the near future," said Illsley. "The image can punish them if they have not taken good care of themselves, or can reward them if they are following healthy diet plans and have begun to lose weight."  
 
Illsley sees potential benefits for companies in such industries as pharmaceuticals, health care services and insurance.
 
See www.accenture.com


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Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's been eating too many pies?

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