From January 2002 to October 2003, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a new automated technology for counting stair users.
They used this technology to test whether "just-in-time" health messages can motivate commuters to increase their routine physical activity by using stairs rather than escalators.
Under the project, the researchers:
- Developed a new computer vision algorithm that detects moving objects in public spaces and then calculates the percentages of people using either stairs or escalators.
- Obtained approval from the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority to test the new technology and conduct just-in-time messaging experiments in three Boston commuter rail stations.
The researchers reported the following findings to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF):
- The new people-counting technology accurately calculated the percentage of stair users versus escalator users, adapted well to the difficult environment of the transit stations and was cost-effective.
- When researchers used their new technology to project a motivational message ("Your heart needs exercise, here's your chance") in the transit stations, commuters increased their stair use by 4.3 percent, a finding consistent with prior studies.
RWJF provided $44,439 from February 2002 to July 2003 to support the pilot study.