Elf: A Mobile App for Improving Indoor Health

Connecting Environment and Body Health for Everyday Wellbeing

Studies have found that the quality of our indoor environment significantly impacts our comfort, wellbeing, and productivity. However, there is a lack of apps that explicitly connect environmental and body data to help people live healthier lifestyles. Designer Tiange Wang addresses this gap with Elf, a mobile app that offers personalized suggestions for indoor environmental improvements and behavioral change.

Elf is a unique app that fosters the connection between environment health and body health by leveraging real-time environmental and health data. It provides users with personalized coaching and nudges them towards actions they can take to improve their everyday wellbeing. Through a conversational user interface and visually appealing colors, Elf guides users to understand the key environmental qualities that influence how their body feels and performs.

The project involved extensive research, including desktop research, expert interviews, and data collection. The team gained deep domain knowledge about how environmental metrics interact with the human body indoors. They also conducted competitive analysis to find a unique market positioning that intersects smart environment, wellbeing, and habit-forming. The human-centered design thinking approach was used to identify design principles, main features, and data communication strategies.

Elf is a mobile app available for both iOS and Android users. It incorporates interactive and intuitive data visualization to present environmental and body health data. The app's conversational user interface, supported by artificial intelligence, makes tips and advice easy to digest and aligns the character of the app with a house elf, creating a stronger emotional appeal. The app utilizes machine learning algorithms to calculate personal comfort zones based on body health profiles and environmental attributes, enabling personalized advice.

Key features of Elf include tracking environmental and body health data, analyzing areas of improvement, providing personalized suggestions, and allowing in-app sharing of information within a community. Users start by setting up their demographic profile, geolocation, health interests, and data collection preferences. The app consists of four main areas: home (real-time environmental highlights, actionable tips, and personal routine timeline), data (detailed data exploration), tribe (sharing insights with the community), and profile (bookmarks and settings).

The Elf project started in January 2022 and completed its initial version in September 2022 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is an ongoing process with updates based on new needs and business goals. The app was selected into Harvard i-Lab's Venture Incubation Program and was a Semi-Finalist at Harvard's Presidential Innovation Challenge.

Extensive research in environmental science and public health informed the development of Elf. The team conducted domain expert interviews and literature research to gain deep domain knowledge. They collected data on environmental thresholds to calibrate the content and frequency of advice generation. User interviews with individuals of different profiles and data literacy levels helped define user personas, key use cases, and preferences regarding mental load perception.

The design of Elf faced several challenges, including balancing the complexity of data with simplicity of communication. The goal was to reduce mental load and ensure a smooth experience for both data-literate and non-data-literate users. Gradient colors were used to convey overall environmental qualities, while conversational UI provided further details and enhanced accessibility. Organizing the information hierarchy between data reading, tips, and routines across the app was another challenge, which was addressed by fitting a natural mental model.

Elf is an innovative mobile app that bridges the gap between environment health and body health. With its personalized suggestions and real-time data, Elf empowers users to improve their indoor environment and enhance their overall wellbeing. The intuitive and interactive data visualization, along with the use of conversational UI and appealing colors, creates an engaging and emotionally appealing user experience.

Image Credits: Tiange Wang, I-Yang Huang, 2022.

Awards and Accolades: Elf was awarded the Bronze A' Design Award in the Mobile Technologies, Applications, and Software Design category in 2023. This prestigious award recognizes the outstanding creativity and ingenuity of designs that contribute to quality of life improvements. Elf exhibits strong technical and creative skills, incorporating best practices in art, science, design, and technology.

Project Details and Credits

Project Designers: Tiange Wang and I-Yang Huang
Image Credits: Image #1: Tiange Wang, I-Yang Huang, 2022. Image #2: Tiange Wang, 2022. Image #3: Tiange Wang, 2022. Image #4: Tiange Wang, 2022. Image #5: Tiange Wang, 2022.
Project Team Members: I-Yang Huang
Project Name: Elf
Project Client: Tiange Wang and I-Yang Huang

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