Millions of people around the world regularly develop and practice personal habits such as running and meditation. These practices reduce sedentary behaviors that can lead to poor health outcomes and can alleviate stress. Mobile apps can support the development and practice of these habits and attract large crowds. Popular examples include Headspace, which provides guided meditation programs and Zombie Run, which immerses players in a post-apocalyptic narrative while out for a run.

Our work springboards off these habit-forming apps by exploring opportunities for sensing within immersive experiences. We are currently exploring this idea through two apps: ZenWalk and ZombieRun Interactive. ZenWalk is a walking meditation app for practicing mindfulness. The meditation proceeds in phases, beginning with awareness of one’s inner state and then to a balanced awareness with the outer experience. We insert data collection opportunities into the latter stage, where as a natural part of meditation, people become aware of their environment. ZombieRun Interactive is an exergame in the vein of ZombieRun, but in-game objectives are tied to data collection opportunities. In the original game, players pick up virtual items as they run and are directed by voice to speed up when zombies are chasing them. In ZombieRun Interactive, the in-game narrative directly connects to the physical world. For example the narrative may ask players to mark real- world street lamps to collect virtual energy cells or tap on real-world fire hydrants to gather virtual water for the village. These sensing micro-tasks contribute to surveillance and maintenance of public infrastructure.

The main conceptual contribution is helping people develop personal habits through immersive experiences while leveraging habits as data collection opportunities. We call this habitsourcing. By leveraging users’ motivation for developing a habit, habitsourcing apps may reach a larger crowd of potential contributors. Moreover, since people can contribute data every time they practice their habit, retaining users by helping them develop and practice their habit will directly advance our data collection goals.

Habitsourcing image 1

Figure 1: Examples of ZenWalk and Zombies Interactive interactions for collecting tree and fire hydrant locations. Audio cues elicit user ac- tions from which we can collect location and motion data (e.g. GPS, accelerometer) from which we can infer object locations.

Habitsourcing image 2

Figure 2: Habitsourcing apps such as ZenWalk and Zombies Interactive insert sensing opportunities in appropriate stages of a habit-building experience.



  • Haoqi Zhang

Ph.D. Students

  • 🎓 Scott Cambo
  • 🎓 Yongsung Kim

Masters and Undergraduate Students

  • 🎓 Alaina Kafkes
  • 🎓 Henry Spindell
  • 🎓 Hyung-Soon Kim
  • 🎓 Katherine Lin