Materializing routines with personal data

Prof. Dr. Claudia Müller-Birn, Freie Universität Berlin
Prof. Judith Glaser, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee
Peter Sörries, Freie Universität Berlin

Personal data increasingly permeate our everyday routines. We unconsciously or consciously record our activities, for example, by counting our daily steps, pinning our favorite places in the city or monitoring our electricity and water consumption. These data can help people reflect on existing routines and behavior on an individual scale for self-optimization. On a large scale, these data can help develop a profound understanding and an awareness of social, ecological or economic entanglements.

We have a profound need to represent data about and around us, turn it into information, make its significance graspable and derive possible actions. Under the umbrella term of data physicalizations, we want to create physical artifacts “whose geometry or material properties encode data” (Jansen et al., 2015). These physicalizations represent what we understand as “neo-analog,” a synthesis of digital (data) and material (thing) in form and function. Our interdisciplinary course project “Let’s get:PHYSICAL” explores how data physicalizations support people’s understanding of personal data and enable informed action.

In this course, we tackle several challenges: How can we enable people to explore and understand physical data in a meaningful way? How can people interact with and manipulate data physically? How can data physicalizations foster people’s reflection to understand better personal data and their social, ecological, or economic entanglements?

In interdisciplinary teams, we challenge students from Computer Science of Freie Universität Berlin and Product Design of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin to develop novel neo-analogue artifacts. These artifacts support “cognition, communication, learning, problem-solving, and decision making” (Jansen et al., 2015) using modalities such as hearing, feeling, smelling or even tasting.


The projects were showcased in an interactive exhibition from February 15 – 23, 2023.

The exhibition took place at the CityLAB Berlin. ↗︎


Jaspar Neukirch, Design
Henry el Bahnasawy, Computer Science
Marvin Hagemeister, Computer Science

— Smart energy tracking

Ampere helps users keep better track of their own electricity consumption. Paying attention to one’s own electricity consumption is becoming increasingly important.In recent years, the cost of providing electricity to German households has risen noticeably. New, established technologies such as heat pumps and e-mobility have high energy requirements.

The structural change towards renewable energies also requires individuals to deal responsibly with electricity as a resource. Electricity meters in households are usually hardly visible and the values they display provide little concrete information about one’s own usage behavior.

Ampere gives users a differentiated picture of their consumption. The energy supplier provides the device. Smart home devices and digitally networked electricity meters collect the data. The device displays time periods between the current daily electricity consumption to the consumption of the current year. More detailed data and a consumption history are shown in the Ampere App on a smartphone. Personalized tips and tricks are displayed based on the consumption data as a guide. To set up Ampere, users first enter a target value. The levels continuously show whether the user meets or exceeds this target value in the time period. The display is discreet, always present, and can be read quickly. This is how Ampere motivates users to optimize their electricity needs.


Alice Paupini, Design
Carolina Sprick, Design
Jeaninne Darakci, Computer Science
Jacob Thiessen, Computer Science

— Self-reflection for intuitive sustainable shopping

Due to the huge environmental impact of the food industry, personal food consumption is an important but stressful area of impact for all of us.

To accommodate us in this development Consumptuition encourages non-judgemental self-reflection on sustainable shopping behaviors, in the privacy of our own home.

The ambient lighting of Consumptuition shows data collected at the supermarket in relation to a defined timeframe and your own priorities. This data is  collected by scanning the Consumptuition Card at the checkout. To  define your priorities you pick 4 out of 9 interest categories in the app, such as Vegan, Fairtrade and Bio. The lamp at home will then show you the percentage of products you bought that matches your choices.  The categories are physically represented by coloured discs, and thoroughly described in the app.
Consumptuition’s feedback is delicate: a stylized water ripple projection that blends in seamlessly with your living space, while arousing curiosity and an interest to learn. Therefore, the app offers additional, detailed information and suggestions on how to improve your consumption behavior.

Over the course of time, Consumptution closes the gap between your perception and the real trend of your shopping behavior to develop sustainable consumer choices.


Hanna Wegener, Design
Maya Giri, Computer Science
Philip Stricker, Computer Science

— Emotional wellbeing at work
Emotional openness is an increasingly important topic in today’s work culture.

Employees want to be able to be open and authentic with their emotions and thoughts. To create a mutually respectful way of dealing with emotions, it is important that we have a space where we reflect well and share our inner life in a safe framework.

Sphere creates such a safe framework and routines. Through regular reflection questions we learn to reflect ourselves and our thoughts and emotions better. For some, this comes naturally; for others, it’s a helpful exercise. Team members answer three questions once a week directly on the Sphere website.

The physical representation of the collected and analyzed answers the object Sphere subsequently makes the overall emotional impression tangible and palpable to the team. The team members thus get a good impression of how the team is currently feeling and are encouraged to get in exchange about it. Sphere focuses on the following three areas to make this possible: How is the mood of your team? How satisfied is your team with the team dynamics? What is your team’s stress level? Sphere offers the possibility to gently integrate the topic of emotional well-being at work into your daily work routine.

Github ↗︎


Sewon Kim, Design
Alfred Jäckel, Computer Science
Michael Migacev, Computer Science

— Prioritise your interests, prioritise yourself

As we age, we change. As we change, our routines do as well. We study more. We work more. We are busier than ever before. Procrastination has become more relevant than ever, we tend to push things until the last minute. But while we do manage to complete our responsibilities we procrastinate on things that are important to us. We have goals outside of work. We have interests outside of uni. If life stopped now, you would probably have a list of things you wanted to do. But life doesn‘t stop so let Do•Dot support you.

Do•Dot allows life to revolve around itself again. It remembers your goals, tracks your achievements, and encourages you to keep going. Do•Dot helps you get back on track no matter how long it takes. But how? In the app, you tell Do•Dot tasks you want to complete. Secondly, you select something to pursue. Do•Dot will then send out a caterpillar. The caterpillar takes seven days to reach the top. If the caterpillar is faster than you are, Do•Dot will work out a plan to beat it next time. The caterpillar is ready to crawl again.
Do•Dot is the truly non-judgemental friend you can confide your plans to.

Github ↗︎

Grow Active

Johannes Schmidt, Design
Tobias Sandmann, Computer Science
Firas Drass, Computer Science

— Build a healthy, active lifestyle routine

Physical activity is essential to our health. However, most people working from home struggle to be active enough for various reasons. Since there is little direct daily feedback, staying motivated and continuously active is hard. Moreover, there is a general lack of knowledge about the right amount of activity. And sometimes, one simply forgets to engage in some physical activity. As a result, physical inactivity increases the risk of suffering from heart disease in the long term or of developing other promoting risk factors, such as high blood pressure or obesity.

Grow Active helps you build a healthy, active lifestyle routine. Inspired by indoor plants, which only grow when taken care of, the mechanical plant leaf slowly opens when the user engages in physical activity. The user’s smartwatch tracks their time in an activity-indicating heart rate zone and sends this data to the plant. It takes 30 minutes of activity to open the leaf completely, following the Harvard School of Public Health’s recommendation for an optimal amount of daily activity. Furthermore, Grow Active helps you to establish your new routine of daily activity through frequent repetition. With an AR application, you can view more detailed information and engage in a 30-day challenge to stay on track. Your performance in the challenge is visualized through a colored heatmap on top of the leaf within the AR.

Grow Active is a constant reminder in your home, allowing you to read your daily activity status intuitively. In addition, the flourishing plant serves as a physical representation of your self-care and engagement in an active lifestyle to promote your health.

Github ↗︎


Yiwei Sang, Design
Elica Tokmakchieva, Computer Science
Nicolas Grözinger, Computer Science

— FEEL connected to your inner self

When you’re busy doing everyday tasks, time passes by imperceptibly. You get up, go to work, have an uncomfortable talk with your boss, do some sports, sleep, and repeat. But when can you take a break and think about your feelings? FEEL reminds you to notice yourself and helps you improve the understanding of your different emotions by making you frequently reflect on them.

The smartwatch monitors your pulse and vibrates when it detects a significant change. If the trigger is related to an occurrence of a specific emotion, you can describe its context in the app: What is happening? How do you feel? How intense are your emotions? In this way, the app becomes a private journal that accompanies you throughout the day.

FEEL is placed at home, and when switched on, it lights in different colors corresponding to the feelings recorded in the app. By touching it, you can feel a vibration showing you their intensity.
Introspection lets you objectively look at your emotions, thoughts, and actions. By doing so, you can better understand yourself and grow compassion for who you are. Self-reflection is the key to self-awareness. Let FEEL support you in this process.

Scroll to Top