Playful Health Technology Lab

The Playful Health Technology Laboratory (PHT Lab) is an interdisciplinary research team affiliated with the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems department at Northern Arizona University. The lab's mission is to design, implement and study human-computer interaction technologies that enhance the experience of improving or maintaining one's health.

We are always looking for motivated students to join our group or to help out on projects. For questions about how to get involved with NAU PHT Lab, please email Jared Duval or stop by his office, located in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (Building 90), room 206.


Recent News

08.29.2022 Jared is teaching his course on Accessible Serious Games for Health. Read more. 08.22.2022 Jared accepts a tenure-track position at Northern Arizona University.05.27.2022 Jared passes dissertation defense.04.21.2022 Jared's Journal on Spellcasters was accepted into TACCESS. Read more.
Past News

Design Makes a Difference.

When designed well, technology can change the world.

Allyship is Paramount.

Disability is a natural and beautiful part of diversity—Let's listen and collaborate.

Play is Powerful.

We cannot be healthy or happy without play.

Our Agenda

Our research is grounded in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and explores the intersection of social computing, health, and play. To better understand the complex, intersecting dynamics at the heart of disability, technology, and healthcare, we forge interdisciplinary research teams and community partnerships to develop a more holistic understanding of how to address the long-standing barriers faced by populations of people with disabilities. When we think well about how and what we design, we have an opportunity to make technology that is a cost-effective, personalized, data-driven, connected, and motivating context for otherwise tedious and repetitive wellness routines. We employ Research through Design (RtD) to build and study systems that aim to improve the experience and effectiveness of meeting or maintaining health goals.

This agenda is challenging because:

  1. Too many existing systems prioritize the medical model of healing over the lived experience of having a disability

  2. Among disabled communities, there is a vast variety of needs, abilities, behaviors, attitudes, and contexts of use that often change over time—these are difficult to model and translate into systems

  3. Measures of success are complicated by the interconnectedness of Wicked Problems, including healthcare, disability justice, and sociotechnical system limitations

Our Approach

Considering these challenges, our research has three approaches:

  1. We draw from interdisciplinary fields, including the humanities, social sciences, and engineering to develop methods of inquiry and research agendas aimed at addressing authentic problems faced by people with disabilities

  2. We design and develop technical probes that afford meaningful interactions and mechanics towards making therapy, rehabilitation, and healing more rewarding and effective

  3. We innovate creative ways to utilize everyday, low-cost, reliable, and ubiquitous technology to gain insights into user behaviors as they relate to health, rehabilitation, and quality of life

Our approach to research is to build real systems and prototypes that address authentic problems and opportunities for engaging with the needs of people with disabilities. We believe that cross-discipline and cross-cultural collaborations hold the key to new perspectives, innovation, and high-quality research. We work in partnership with community members and stakeholders through community-based frameworks to serve as a conduit for reaching their goals—our research benefits from acknowledging the expertise of groups, both within and outside of academia.

We are particularly captivated by play and the potential for it to move us forward. Play affords a unique opportunity for studying how various populations appropriate tools and technology to serve their needs. We believe play contains qualities that are naturally healing and is a great vehicle for addressing society’s Wicked Problems because it enables us to explore outside current norms and barriers. Play is naturally iterative with ever-changing rules and possibilities—it provides an effective approach to conducting Research through Design.