Johanna Mercurio with Affective Health system
Affective Health

“Affective Health" is a system that measures your movement and arousal level through bio-sensors attached to your body. These measurements can indicate how you live your life over time, it can portray situations that are stressful, engaging as well as peaceful moments in your life. The bio-sensor data is displayed in real time on the mobile phone. It is visualized using shapes and a color scheme that builds from the energy level that different colors contain.


With Affective Health users can enter a biofeedback loop, as their emotional, bodily reactions are mirrored in realtime. For example, taking a deep breath and seeing the color of the spiral smoothly change from a strong red color, down to calmer and calmer colors as picked up by the arousal measurements from the biosensor wristband. From what is mirrored in the interface users can recognize patterns and start figuring out what excites and calms them. It becomes of vital importance to portray our selves pulsating, alive, and subjective. In a sense, we are putting bodily and mindful practices next to one-another, into a whole – stepping away from a dualistic perspective on body and mind.

Affective Health is currently looking into ways of sharing bio data between users, to understand, help and support each other. The system has recently been used by the Swedish national team in orienteering, a group of colleagues at a big company and a group people not connected to each other.

External homepage:
In media

The overall Affective Health system is best understood through watching the following video:

  • Longer video trying to put Affective Health into an everyday setting - showing two alternative interfaces

The system was designed in a tight loop with four parallel processes: technical, medical, design and user study explorations. The technical and medical investigations are described here:

  • Sanches, P., Höök, K., Kosmack Vaara, E., Weymann, C., Bylund, M., and Sjölinder, M. (2010). Mind the Body! Designing a Mobile Stress Management Application Encouraging Personal Reflection. In Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems (DIS), Aarhus, Denmark, ACM Press. (ACM DL)
  • Sanches, P. (2008). Supporting Self-Reflection in Everyday Life: An exploratory review of physiological input methods for the Affective Health system . Master Thesis, Departement of Computer and Systems Sciences, KTH(PDF)
  • Weymann, C. (2009). Development of an Affective User Interface for Mobile Phones. Master Thesis, Universität Koblenz Landau. (PDF)

The design explorations are published here:

  • Kosmack Vaara, E. Silvasan, I., Ståhl, A., Höök, K. (2010). Temporal Relations in Affective Health. In Proceedings of NordiCHI, Reykjavik, Iceland, October 18 - 20, ACM Press (PDF)
  • Kosmack Vaara, E., Höök, K., and Tholander, J. (2009). Mirroring bodily experiences over time. Work in progress at CHI 2009. Boston, USA (ACM DL link)

The user study explorations have been published in:

  • Ferreira, P., Sanches, P., Höök, K. and Jaensson, T. (2008). License to Chill! How to empower users to cope with stress. In proceedings of Nordic forum for human-computer interaction research (NordiCHI), pp. 123-132, ACM Press, Lund, Sweden, 2008.(PDF)
  • Ferreira, P. (2008). Dealing with Stress: Studying experiences of a real-time biofeedback system. Master Thesis. Departement of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University/KTH(PDF)

The underlying design model employed in the project is named Interactional Empowerment. It is explained and discussed here:

  • Höök, K., Ståhl, A., Sundström, P., and Laaksolahti, J. (2008). Interactional Empowerment. In proceedings of ACM SIGCHI conference Computer-Human Interaction (CHI2008), pp. 647-656, Florence (ACM DL)
  • Sanches, P., Vaara, E., Sjölinder, M., Weymann, C. and Höök, K. (2010). Affective Health – designing for empowerment rather than stress diagnosis. At the workshop, Know thyself: monitoring and reflecting on facets of one's life at CHI 2010, Atlanta, GA, USA. (PDF)
  • Höök, K., Sundström, P., Tholander, J., Ferreira, P., Ståhl, A., Laaksolahti, J., Kosmack Vaara, E., Karlsson, A., Sanches, P., Johansson, C., Sjölinder, M., Weymann, C., and Jaensson, T. (2010). Design Processes for Bodily Interaction. At the workshop Artifacts in Design: Representation, Ideation, and Process to be held at CHI, Atlanda, USA, April 2010.(PDF)

The Affective Health system was inspired by another prior system we built, named Affective Diary:

  • Affective Diary home page
  • Ståhl, A., Höök, K., Svensson, M., Taylor, A. and Combetto, M. (2009). Experiencing the Affective Diary. In Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing: Volume 13, Issue5 (2009), Page 365.(PDF)