Hacking Happiness

Yesterday I took part in a hack-a-thon hosted by the Digital Catapult and the Royal Society. It was based on using data analysis and technology to try and measure and improve happiness. It was a great event, with lots of teams from all different disciplines and backgrounds. I was part of a team from Newcastle University, as well as members from Brighton and Central St. Martins.

Our idea was to create an app that could find the happiest route between two points, avoiding high pollution areas and preferring green spaces. We built a (rather simple) model using crime statistics and air quality data and an app to push route information to a back end service containing the model which would rate several routes on their “happiness” levels.

Another member of our team created a prototype “Happiness Band” to use measures of heart rate and galvanic skin response to gauge a persons happiness as they travelled around the city. We intended to use this data to provide objective measures of stress along the routes we suggested, as well as provide heat maps of stressful areas to augment our happiness model.

The team members from Brighton and Central St. Martins created UI mock-ups and user stories to show how the final app would look and feel.

After several intense hours work:

We had our prototype and gave our presentation to the judges:

There were many innovative and much more functional applications than ours. But in the end the judges liked our combination of machine learning, smart devices and UI he most and declared us the winners!

It was a great experience and I look forward to more hack-a-thons in the future!