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

05.02.2024 Tochukwu and Jared's SHERC Grant Proposal Recommended for funding! 04.18.2024 Jared and Tochukwu's DIS Conference Paper accepted!03.05.2024 Jared publishes Article in XRDS: Crossroads, the ACM Magazine for Students02.26.2024 Jared publishes the Winter edition of the SIGACCESS Accessible Computing Newsletter as Editor.02.12.2024 Jared's RCMI Conference Abstract accepted!02.01.2024 Jared's CHI Panel on VR for Health and Wellbeing accepted!10.26.2023 Jared presents machine learning work at ASSETS 2023 in New York City10.25.2023 Tochukwu rated best of the week in I-Corps Medtech for conducting an incredible ten in-person interviews09.22.2023 Tochukwu accepted into the NSF I-Corps Hub: Desert and Pacific Region08.31.2023 Jared publishes the summer edition of the SIGACCESS Accessible Computing Newsletter as Editor08.28.2023 Jared is teaching the inaugural course in the new Immersive Media and Games program at NAU, IMG 18608.01.2023 Tochukwu Ikwunne joins the PHT Lab—Welcome!07.01.2023 Jared's co-authored publication on Cirkus is accepted into the ASSETS 2023 program!04.19.2023 NSF Vital Discovery Round application is accepted for developing realistic forest simulations in Unreal for K-12 STEM education04.01.2023 Jared's proposal for improving the health equity of SpokeIt was recommended for funding by SHERC! 02.16.2023 Jared presents research to Women Who Compute.01.29.2023 Jared publishes the January edition of the SIGACCESS Accessible Computing Newsletter as Editor. Read more.01.23.2023 Jared is teaching his course on Advanced User Interfaces.01.23.2023 Jared is teaching his course on Creative Strategies for Designing Interactive Media. 
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: 

Our Approach

Considering these challenges, our research has three approaches:

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.