Alejandro Freixes
Mar 16, 2012

Using virtual worlds to 'soft control' people's movements in the real one

Researchers can’t force mobile users to behave in a certain way, but researchers at Northwestern University have found that they may be able to nudge them in the right direction by using incentives that are already part of their regular mobile routine. In the paper, “Crowd (Soft) Control: Moving beyond the Opportunistic,” Fabian Bustamante and his group designed a way to “soft control” people’s movements by tapping into games or social networking applications. For example, a game might offer extra points if a player visits a certain location in the real world, or it might send a player to a certain location in a virtual scavenger hunt. If this technology were implemented on a larger scale, users would need to be notified that their data was being collected for research purposes, Bustamante said. Flickr photos of less frequented locations increased substantially.