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HackZurich 2021: Stay comfy and get healthy

Unhealthy lifestyles endanger the human population in the 21st century; more than 50% of the world’s population live with a non-communicable disease (NCD), often caused by unhealthy routines and behavior. Such NCDs like diabetes, COPD, and cardiovascular diseases cause a significant personal and financial burden. However, current digital health solutions are often not made for effectively addressing this issue – they target fitness and health enthusiasts who are already convinced of their importance, but what about the people who do not actively look for fitness or healthcare advice? Very often, they are the ones having a higher risk of developing an NCD, yet they are not included in the discussion!

To solve this problem, we invite you to engage with us in the so-called “healthification of comfort zones” challenge – we develop digital solutions that bring health-related exercises to the comfort zones of people, picking them up where they feel the most comfortable and motivated! 

Specifically, we focus on breathing – especially slow-paced breathing training can be of great help as it is easy to do and one of the most effective methods to strengthen cardiac functioning and psychological well-being. “Take a deep breath” is what we get told when we need to slow down. Breathing plays such an important role in our lives and yet we barely notice we are all doing it and we are almost never doing it consciously. And yes, there are guided meditations, yoga classes, and hundreds of books that all promise us to improve our health by focusing on breathing techniques. But those are either expensive, time-intensive, or straight-up boring. 

Our mission is to help people relax and focus on their breathing but in a playful way.

In this problem we want you to come up with what you think is the best way of doing this on your smartphone. We challenge you to come up with (1) a way to measure breathing patterns on your smartphone and (2) a simple game to make it appealing for people to train slow-paced breathing. 

The researchers at ETH Zurich developed a prototype, a mobile game where you push a sailboat across the waters using your breath following a 5-2-5-2 approach (breath-in, hold your breath, breath out, hold your breath), which we show you for inspirational purposes. Develop your own solution now to motivate as many people as you can to start your healthification of comfort zones game, exercise slow-paced breathing, and win the hackathon! 

Problem

Unhealthy lifestyles endanger the human population in the 21st century; more than 50% of the world’s population live with a non-communicable disease (NCD), often caused by unhealthy routines and behavior. Such NCDs like diabetes, COPD, and cardiovascular diseases cause a significant personal and financial burden. However, current digital health solutions are often not made for effectively addressing this issue – they target fitness and health enthusiasts who are already convinced of their importance, but what about the people who do not actively look for fitness or healthcare advice? Very often, they are the ones having a higher risk of developing an NCD, yet they are not included in the discussion!

Mission

We focus on breathing – especially slow-paced breathing training can be of great help as it is easy to do and one of the most effective methods to strengthen cardiac functioning and psychological well-being. “Take a deep breath” is what we get told when we need to slow down. Breathing plays such an important role in our lives and yet we barely notice we are all doing it and we are almost never doing it consciously. And yes, there are guided meditations, yoga classes, and hundreds of books that all promise us to improve our health by focusing on breathing techniques. But those are either expensive, time-intensive, or straight-up boring. 

Our mission is to help people relax and focus on their breathing but in a playful way.

Challenge

We challenge you to come up with an innovative way for a guided breathing exercise. For this, we are providing you with audio files that contain breathing noises from multiple test subjects in various environments. We want you to come up with a mobile application that can detect breathing patterns in real-time and reward the user for correctly following breathing instructions. We previously published a prototype in which it is possible to virtually hop between islands in a small sailboat. Whether you succeed or not depends on breathing frequency and depth. You can find screenshots, a video, and some academic papers here

Now, we want you to come up with your own idea of how to get people engaged with their breathing. 

There are two parts you will have to consider:

  • The detection. How are you going to detect whether the user is breathing in or out? Most smartphone microphones nowadays are of such high quality that they can easily pick up breathing noises (or pressure of the air stream hitting it). Until now, we used spectral analysis for this, but maybe a neural network can do this more efficiently and faster? Another thing you will have to take into account is going to be the length of the audio recording. While it is easy to identify exhales in a 5-second recording, it is way more challenging to do this in real-time. How long of an audio recording do you need to make a decision? Can you make the feedback feel smooth and instant, or is it going to lag behind?
  • The visualization. In order to get users engaged, you will have to offer them an aesthetically pleasing view that instructs them to follow a specific breathing pattern. This could be anything from a pulsating circle to an immersive game – surprise us! Importantly, keep in mind that we not only want to instruct the user how to breathe, we also want to include some kind of feedback on how well they are doing at following the exercise.

What we offer

  • Video example of the current Breeze prototype app 
  • Sample of breathing audio data

FAQ

  • I do not have a team yet, can I still join the Stay comfy get healthy challenge?
    • Of course. Ideally, you find teammates via Slack or the matching session. Otherwise, you can also send a mail to Daniel or Theresa, they can help you to shape your idea.
  • I do not have any idea yet. Do you have one for me?
    • Feel free to have a chat with us at the booth or ask other hackers via Slack. You can also send a mail to Daniel or Theresa, they can help you to shape your idea.
  • Do I have to use the headsets?
    • No, you can build anything, for example, a smartphone app or web app as well. Be creative & have fun!
  • I need support. Who can I contact?
    • Visit us at our booth or write us a message in Slack and we will gladly answer your questions.

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Contact

Booth

You can find us at our booth (CSS+ETH / CDHI)

Networking

If you want to collaborate with ETH Zurich, CDHI, or the breathing project after HackZurich, please reach out to Dr. Theresa Schachner

If you want to collaborate with CSS, please reach out to Daniel Alzer

Partner
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