Excess weight and obesity are two global health issues. According to data of the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 50% of the European population is overweight and 20% is obese. In Spain, the situation is similar: in the last 30 years, obesity among adults has increased. More than half the adult population (54.5%) is overweight.
The app offers user the possibility to communicate with the bot. The bot asks questions on topics such as age or weight, eating habits or how often users exercise. Depending on the user’s answers in this conversation, an individual score (Wakaestado) can be reached.
In this context, and in the framework of the CrowdHealth European project, researchers of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) belonging to the BDSLab Group of the ITACA Institute, headed by Juan M. García-Gómez, have developed Wakamola, a bot that will help learn the population’s eating and physical activity habits.
As Juan M. García-Gómez explains, it is a bot that, through Telegram, emulates a conversation with the user on their diet, physical activity, diseases, age, weight, social network, etc. The following analysis of said information will make it possible to create a network of relations to study the interactions of people’s habits in relation to their diet, physical activity and their surroundings.
Sabina Asensio-Cuesta, researcher of the Wakamola project and the BDSLab Group, adds that ‘a noticeable aspect of Wakamola is the hard work carried out to make it an appealing, leisurely and usable feature for users’. To do so, the researchers have come up with different scripts and conducted a comprehensive study to choose the most appropriate design for the bot by way of a survey, which was sent to 495 people and included 52 potential designs suggested by students of the UPV’s School of Design Engineering. From this survey came the name Wakamola and the character, designed by students Mª Dolores Blanco, Ángel Esteban and Marta Lavall.
"With all this, the objective is for Wakamola to help gather a great amount of data from the population on their eating habits, physical activity, body mass index, diseases related to obesity and excess weight, etc. At the same time, Wakamola will enable us to determine how important the surroundings are for each user, for example, where they live and who they interact with (at home, family or friends). The analysis of the data gathered by Wakamola could be of great utility when creating actions to try to solve the severe issue of weight excess and obesity that our society is facing," explains Sabina Asensio-Cuesta.
Vicent Blanes-Selva, researcher of the BDSLab-ITACA of the UPV and developed of the bot in collaboration with the Taipei Medical University (Shabbir Syed and Yu-Chuan Li) reveals that the way Wakamola works is very simple. From Telegram, the user establishes a conversation with the bot, with questions on topics such as age or weight, eating habits or how often they exercise. Depending on the user’s answers in this conversation, a score (Wakaestado) is shown from 0 to 100. The bot then also enables the user to see the breakdown of the Wakaestado by diet, activity, BMI, diseases and social network.