What it is How it works


Concept development

Actively Mobile videos
User research

on a run in training
with a friend on holiday

Download the
thesis report

web version

print version




The Actively Mobile concept evolved in both function and form throughout the design process. What began with the notion of less disruptive commmunication grew into a mobile kit of parts that transforms from normal phone use into a training device, customized the context of running.

Because attention and focus are key elements of physical exercise, a mobile device that respects the context of the activity should create minimal distraction. Personal observation, coupled with analyis of the tasks and mindsets of runners during different stages of activity, led to the idea of presetting functionality before engaging in activity, thereby minimizing interaction with the device during the activity. This type of 'set-up' mode also addresses the ritualistic aspects of running. Most runners maintain predictible routines, within which workout presets would provide a repeatedly reliable experience. A device that knows the runner's habits would require very little interaction, and be the least disruptive of all.

User research confirmed that the device needed to be minimal, lightweight, and dispersed on the body. One user aptly suggested, “I want it to become part of the gear.” Each user had a different preference for positioning, ranging from the arm to the wrist to the hip.

Based on these findings, my concept moved toward a minimalist, modular device, that uses only the key parts of the phone’s functionality, and as few buttons as possible. To signify the shift of modes from normal use, set-up, and use during physical activity, I decided that the device should incorporate a physical shift – such as components that pop out of the back for use in a different context. This physical shift in form reinforces the specificity of the device's contextual use.

Several rounds of research evolved into the kit of parts concept, which I dubbed the “convertible mobile” (pictured above). I Prototyped the concept using a foam core device which separated into three pieces – a traditional mobile phone shell, including the keyboard and screen, an earpiece that popped out from the bottom of the phone, and a small square embedded in the back of the phone, which when removed could control a subset of the device’s functionality. The small square (the “remote”) would be worn on the body – on the arm, wrist or hip – and paired with the earpiece to operate the device while in motion. The concept was rooted in the idea of leaving the bulk of the phone behind, including the screen and the keys, and taking along only the necessary parts.

This convertible mobile concept provided the base for several iterations of physical and functional prototypes, which shaped the final design of the actively mobile solution.






Actively Mobile ·© Jennifer Bove · Interaction Design Institute Ivrea · June 2005