Assessing Moods and Behavior

A tangible device for experience sampling



A research team at UCI does experience sampling of moods of office workers. The users are prompted to enter their mood at a fixed interval through a pop-up on their desktop. This procedure can become irritating to the users and can thus nudge them to provide inaccurate data.


We have created a tangible mood box which prompts the user to input his/her mood by lighting up at a fixed interval. The user can then touch the dot below the image that best represents their mood. This tangible device is unobtrusive and sits at the desk where the user is working.

Project Duration

This project was undertaken from October to December 2016. This was a class project under the course 'Digital media, Moods and Behavior' at UCI.

My Role

We were a team of 8 people. I was one of the 4 designers and developers of this project.

Design Process

Theoretical Perspective

We designed the interface of the system based on Russel's Circumplex model of affect (pleasant vs. unpleasant) and valence (arousal vs. deactivation) . The figure below shows the graph that is represented. positive affect and positive valence is happy, positive affect and negative valence is calm, negative affect and positive valence is angry, and negative affect and negative valence is sad. The inputs that the user would be provided would be based on these four quadrants

Initial Prototypes

The first prototype of the project was made to get acquainted with Arduino. The device took input from the user regarding his/her mood. The LED light went on after every hour and turned off as soon as the user inputs his/her mood. There were 4 options: happy, sad, angry and calm. The input given every hour was recorded. The image on the left shows the first prototype. In the second prototype we used a capacitative touch sensor (MPR121). We designed the device to mimic Russell's circumplex model. The input was divided into 4 quadrants where the X and Y axis measured the affect and valence. Q1 signified happy, Q2 was stressed, Q3 was depressed and Q4 was calm. The further the user moved away from the origin, more intense was the emotion. There were 12 inputs that the user could give. The image in the center shows the second prototype. In the third prototype session we developed a user friendly model. We enclosed the circuit into a box and exposed only Russell's Circumplex to the user. Just like in the previous prototype, the user could touch a line on the quadrant to indicate his/her mood.

User Feedback

From the prototypes above we found out that even after sufficient training users required proper labeling in order to input their mood. Rather than introducing verbal cues for labeling we decided to use pictures.

Final Prototype in Making

In the final prototype we designed a box that could be kept on the desk. The user could input his/her mood by pressing the button below the picture that signifies their mood appropriately. The pictures were taken form the study 'PAM: a photographic affect meter for frequent, in situ measurement of affect'. This study, conducted in Cornell, selected 16 photographs and placed them in the 4 quadrants of Russel's Circumplex.

We made the box using a laser cutter and soldered the input buttons with the connecting wires of the circuit attached to the touch sensor MPR121. The images below show the making of the box and the circuit in contains inside.The Arduino in the box must be attached to a computer through a USB cable

Four sides of the box were used as the 4 quadrants of Russel's Circumplex (Happy, Angry, Sad and Calm). The images were placed accordingly. Users would decide which quadrant/ face of the cube best suits their mood and then press the button of the picture that signifies how they feel.

The Final Prototype

In the final prototype we designed a box that could be kept on the desk. A blinking white light indicated when the user dhould input his/her mood. The user could input his/her mood by pressing the button below the picture that signifies their mood appropriately. A blue light would blink each time the user inputs his/her mood, and the white light would go off. The logs with the captured data were saved on the Arduino console.

The picture below shows the final circuit enclosed in the box. The wires from the sensor are soldered to the buttons in front. The images below show the logs being captured on the Arduino console. The log contains a time stamp as well.