Grafitter can make weight-loss easier, track recurring dreams or help you monitor your recycling. It may not mow your lawn, but it'll tell you how much time you spend mowing it.
This Twitter-based application was developed by Ian Li, a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. And the fact that it allows users to so easily see a graph of their behavior makes it a technology that's winning fans across the Twittersphere.
It's also the the 2009 winner of Carnegie Mellon University's second annual Smiley Award. Sponsored by Yahoo! Inc., the award recognizes Carnegie Mellon student-innovation in technology-assisted person-to-person communication — and Li is collecting a $500 prize. Last year, his web-based Moodjam application, which tracks users' emotional states, won honorable mention.
"I create technologies that help people collect and see information about themselves," said Li. "I have applied my research on motivating physical activity, increasing mood awareness and office activity awareness. Grafitter is only as useful as you make it. If there is something about your life that you are curious about, start recording it and study your graphs."
For example, with help from Grafitter you could record your weight, the amount of exercise you get and the food you eat by sending simple Twitter messages with special tags. Later, you can see all of these items in graph form and, optionally, share them with your community of friends on Twitter.
"Ian has a wonderful combination of technical and creative skills," said Li's advisor Jodi Forlizzi, associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. These culminate in his interest on 'personal informatics' — how to collect, display and benefit from information about the self."
"Ian is really a unique individual — a great mix of designer and technologist, targeted towards applications that can make a difference in people's lives, either individually or as a community," added advisor Anind Dey, assistant professor of human-computer interaction.
"Grafitter is fun, very easy to use and is a good fit for the Smiley Award's theme of technology-assisted person-to-person communication," said computer science research professor Scott Fahlman, who created the Smiley emoticon 26 years ago and organized the award competition. "The judges were particularly impressed with Ian's cleverness in creating a 'viral' application — one that is likely to spread quickly through the large and fast-growing community of Twitter users, providing them with a handy new communication tool. This is very much in the spirit of the original smiley symbol."
This year's Honorable Mention award goes to Ilya Brin, Dan Eisenberg and Kevin Li, a trio of undergraduates who developed EyeTable. It's an intelligent restaurant table that uses headsets and sensing technology based on the Wii game controller to determine how well people are responding to one another on dates by analyzing their gestures and speech patterns. They developed EyeTable for a course project in the Applied Computational Intelligence Lab, taught by Language Technology Institute faculty members Anatole Gershman and Alan Black.