The goal of the IKTA project was to create a mobile app that doesn't simply monitor user consumption, but also gamifies the quitting experience. In the final stages of development, we hope that the game will harvest data from the player's electronic cigarette that will then be processed by the game and will change the gameplay. As the user reduces their consumption, they will earn more rewards that will allow the user to unlock more rewards, power-ups, etc. The difficulty in the game will also increase to keep the player engaged.
In addition to an incentive-based system that encourages progress in the game, the player will interact closely with a character (named "Ikta") that will provide personalized advice and support to the user.
We wanted to set up a dialogue at the heart of our game to allow people to have personalized advice and support in their pocket available at any time. Indeed, there are many applications to stop smoking, usually filled with statistics, graphics, which we believe lack in human contact. Ikta also allows, by its design, to put a little distance between the possible judgments that the player could otherwise suffer from their family, their friends or society.
We decided to use the VIDE asset to develop our dialogue since our application is developed directly in the Unity game engine. VIDE (which has a free version) is very easy to use and allows for data recovery via the dialogue between Ikta and the player (name, concentration of nicotine, etc.). VIDE does not offer artificial intelligence to manage the dialogues but rather a tree where the path depends on the player’s choices. Due to the lack of space on the screen, we can only leave two choices to the player. This prompted us to create an introductory series of dialogues to better under the player and their desire to smoke. After a few days of use, we started to write a series of dialogues on a wide range of topics such as getting over a craving, defining one’s reduction goal, relaxation tips, etc. These dialogues do not have to be presented in any specific order.
In the future, we imagine the dialogues to be a full chatbot rather than just a pre-programmed skit. Ideally, the user will be able to talk with Ikta about whatever they want using their own words. This would provide a feeling of closer connection between the player and Ikta, and would result in a more personalized dialogue that is relevant to the player’s needs. To give an example of the kind of interaction the player could have with Ikta, we could imagine a scenario where the player has an intense craving on a certain day. They would be able to connect to Ikta and specifically ask her in their own words “Can you give me some tips to get over a craving?” Ikta would then provide some techniques or links to relevant websites that the user can consult at their own leisure. The major challenge of such a chatbot would simply be integrating it into the C# code.
It is clear that the content in these dialogues needs to be verified (and even directed!) by medical and psychological experts to avoid ineffective (or worse, counterproductive) content written by game programmers with good intentions but who don’t really know what they’re doing.
use of e-cigarettes shows to be very effective in helping people reduce their
nicotine consumption. According to the Association Indépendante des
Utilisateurs de Cigarette Electronique, 62% of e-cigarette users reduce the
number of cigarettes they smoke or completely stop smoking, and about 32% also
quit nicotine altogether.
the success rate is already quite high for people without a game, we believe
that gamifying the weaning process could result in even higher success
rates. Gamificiation can improve motivation for users, and a digital
quitting tool could help supplement support from family, friends, and medical
On the market, there currently exists some digital solutions to wean off of nicotine, notably connected e-cigarettes. Connected e-cigarettes, developed by several startups including Smok.io, myVaps and Silversmoke, among others. Several, including MyVaps, have failed due to lack of interest and little funding, but one--Enovaps--is still in business according to our research. The apparent lack of interest in connected e-cigarettes and their absence on the market is a barrier that we should take into serious consideration as we continue the project. However, our long-term vision for IKTA that is not limited to quitting cigarettes could be still be viable if the market shows no interest for digitalizing the quitting process.
In the beginning, we imagined the gameplay behind IKTA would be as follows:
The consumption of nicotine would be represented by enemies that the player has to fight away from a specific point
As the player reduces their consumption, the enemies become fewer and fewer
The major problem with this design is the fact that the game gets easier as the player gets better, which could easily result in the player getting bored and feeling preached at.
We decided to scratch that idea in favor of an inverted scheme in which the gameplay gets harder as the player reduces their consumption. We also changed the basic gameplay style, so that the player has to collect all of the collectibles before the time runs out.
However, we felt that difficulty was not enough of an incentive to maintain player interest, so we decided to create additional incentives to keep the user playing.
Reducing consumption gives the player a multiplier to increase the amount of pyris (the currency of the game) they can earn
The player can spend pyris to unlock bonus levels, new abilities, enemies, and visual upgrades
As development continues, it is certain that a lot of time will have to be spent on level and incentive design to maintain interest all while encouraging a healthy weaning off of nicotine.
On Friday we had the opportunity to the exhibit our projects at the Carrefour Numérique at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie in Paris, France. Families from the Paris area came to the exposition and discovered the projects from the 2017 CRI Labs Summer School.
We had some comments about some technical changes that need to be addressed
the start pad is not very visibile, so people don't understand how to control the Arrow
the concentrations that we put in our demo are too low (the maximum legal concentration in Europe is 20 mg/mL, concentrations usually run in increments of 4 from 0 to 20)
we also discovered some bugs in the dialogue with Ikta (sometimes all that is required is to delete a given node and reconnect it)
Perhaps the most interesting comment we had during the exhibition was from Adrien at the CRI MakerLab. His had 2 main points that we found interesting:
He agreed with us that the game should not be related to quitting anything at all. Its level design should be addictive (the irony!) to keep people's interest in the game (think CandyCrush), but instead of simply spending money to advance in the game, the player must reduce their consumption.
He imagined a future direction for the project that is not limited to just nicotine. The game would be compatible with many different devices to allow users to address any habit or lifestyle choice they want to change. We really like this idea, and can imagine that users can simply download the "packs" related to their goals.
Currently, IKTA is a basic arcade-style game where the user has to collect all objects before the time runs out. Depending on where they are in their quitting process, the rewards and difficulty will change. However, in order for the app to keep people motivated, it will require great level design to ensure that users keep connecting.