Can persuasive technology be fun? You bet!

By Michael McCauley  “Persuasive technology” is technology specifically designed to change people’s attitudes and/or behaviors. But can persuasive technology be fun, too? This is the question that Volkswagen asked. The results are some of the most creative and interesting uses of persuasive technology I’ve ever seen. Their idea was to see if they could change people’s attitudes and behaviors simply by using technology which made the preferred behavior fun. On their website are several examples. At one subway station they made the stairway into a giant piano, with each step being a single piano key. When people walked up or down the stairs they played a tune. The result was an incredible 66% increase in the use of the stairs over the adjoining escalator!   In another example, a simple bottle recycling bin was transformed into an arcade game. If you dropped a bottle into the hole that was lit then your “score” (displayed on a large scoreboard) increased. Did this approach change people’s behavior? You bet – during one day, this bottle recycling arcade was used 100 times while a similar recycling bin (without the arcade) just one block away was used only twice! Urbanspoon has taken a similar approach with their restaurant selection app for the iPhone. This persuasive technology is part Magic 8 Ball and part slot machine. To use it, you simply shake your iPhone and it finds a restaurant close to your present location. It’s a really fun and original way to locate a restaurant. I believe that these examples are pointing the way to an emerging trend in persuasive technology development. Rather than trying to convince someone to do something, these apps simply make the preferred behavior more fun. It’s nice to think that the solution to many of the world’s challenges might be resolved by simply adding a bit of fun into the mix.]]>

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