Biogram Screenshot 1The University of Southern California (USC) Center for Body Computing has launched an app to study how the integration of biometric data with social media could affect how we connect with each other.

A growing number of health and medical apps are integrating social media tools and people are becoming increasingly comfortable sharing personal health data. And that could be a powerful tool, for example when it comes to motivating healthy behavior change. This study aims to understand how sharing that data affects our digital interactions.

Biogram 2, developed in collaboration with Medable, lets participants embed biometric data, starting with heart rate, into images that they share on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s an update of a version released earlier this year prior to the availability of ResearchKit. Researchers will collect biometric data including heart rate, weight, and step count through HealthKit. The goal of the study is to understand how public sharing of health data influences relationships and interactions people experience through these digital platforms.

According to the press release,

Biogram offers users a unique social photo-sharing app to record their heart rate and embed it into the photo they took at the time. These posts will seamlessly create a personal collection of health data, capturing user emotion and experience that can be shared to social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. For instance, users can share photos of a new pair of shoes, playing with their dog and hugging their grandparent – all with their heart rate data embedded at the time the photo was taken…Researchers will analyze the data to better understand how publicly sharing biometrics, such as heart rate, influences personal relationships and experiences in a social community.

Biogram Screenshot 2A lot of the data being collected can be collected using just the iPhone including using the motion sensors to determine activity levels and the camera to detect heart rate. Participants can also contribute data captured from peripherals that are HealthKit compatible.

A frequent critique of the growing role of social media in our interpersonal lives is that is inherently impersonal. The idea that incorporation of biometric data could influence these digital interactions is interesting. While factors like heart rate or weight don’t necessarily play into our day-to-day personal interactions, they could play important roles in our digital lives.

According to Dr. Leslie Saxon MD, executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, “Wearable devices and apps realize [their] full potential when the user has an emotional connection and even dependence with the technology – it becomes contextualized biometrics leading to greater empowerment and education about an individual’s health and behavior.”