Health Empowerment through Self-Tracking

Anne Wright (CMU)
Location: Sutton Parlors
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The BodyTrack project has interviewed a number of people who have improved their health by discovering certain foods or environmental exposures to avoid, or learning other types of behavioral changes. Many describe greatly improved quality of life, overcoming in some cases chronic problems in areas such as sleep, pain, gastrointestinal function, and energy levels. In some cases, a doctor or specialist’s diagnosis led to treatment which mitigated symptoms (e.g. asthma or migraine headache), but where discovery of triggers required self-tracking and self-experimentation.

Importantly, the act of starting to search for one’s sensitivities or triggers appears to be empowering: people who embarked on this path changed their relationship to their health situation even before making the discoveries that helped lead to symptom improvement.

The BodyTrack Project is building tools, both technological and cultural, to empower more people to embrace an “investigator” role in their own lives. The core of the BodyTrack system is an open source web service which allows users to aggregate, visualize, and analyze data from a myriad of sources — physiological metrics from wearable sensors, image and self-observation capture from smart phones, local environmental measures such as bedroom light and noise levels and in-house air quality monitoring, and regional environmental measures such as pollen/mold counts and air particulates. We believe empowering a broader set of people with these tools will help individuals and medical practitioners alike to better address health conditions with complex environmental or behavioral components.

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Anne Wright


Anne Wright is Co-principal Investigator and Director of Operations for the BodyTrack project in the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. She received B.S. and M.Eng. degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. After leaving MIT, she co-founded Newton Research Labs, a successful robotics and computer vision company, then joined the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames Research Center where she served as Lead Systems Engineer for Prototype Mars Rovers. While at Ames, Anne became interested in how to harness sensing and data visualization technologies and techniques originally developed for the rovers to help people “debug” diffuse environmentally related conditions such as allergies, food sensitivities, asthma and migraine triggers, etc. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2009 and spent a year studying biochemistry at CMU. She co-founded the BodyTrack Project in 2010 with the support of the Heinz Endowments of Pittsburgh. Through the BodyTrack Project she pursues a multi-faceted approach to improving health empowerment for people affected by such diffuse conditions, including open-source technology development, aggregation and visualization of data from existing devices and data sources, collaborative development of common data interchange formats and APIs, development of custom devices, and cultural engineering. She also seeks to identify and catalyze synergistic efforts in this space such as the Quantified Self, Quant Friendly Doctor, Locker Project, and open mHealth movements.


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