Interdisciplinary team led by ComArtSci receives USDA grant to study retail purchase decisions

Posted on: November 14, 2016

vlcsnap-2016-11-11-13h26m20s268The answers behind purchase decisions may lie in the eye of the beholder according to a recently funded interdisciplinary study involving the Michigan State University departments of Advertising and Public Relations and Horticulture.

Beginning early 2017, Professor of Retailing Patricia Huddleston will join Professor of Horticulture Marketing Bridget Behe in leading a student research team that will use eye-tracking technology to investigate how people make product choices—in this case, plants. The two-year project recently received a Federal State Marketing and Improvement Program grant for $136,000 through the United States Departmehuddleston-pat-09132016-3032-2nt of Agriculture.

"I've always been interested in what happens at the moment of truth," Huddleston says. "It's fascinating to looked at what consumers do when they are actually picking a product off a shelf or a rack. The context here are plants, but you can apply this research to any type of product."

Huddleston explains that much of the success of retailing depends on getting things right—or the science of finding the right mix of product assortment, pricing and merchandising that attracts and entices consumers. The recently funded study, she says, will look at how merchandise—specifically selections of herbs or flowering annuals—ispresented at the point of purchase, and how information in displays affects consumer behavior.

The study will be conducted on campus the first year, then migrate to retail settings in mid-Michigan in 2018. Huddleston and Behe will construct displays that vary in product volume and complexity, and then enlist subjects to pick a particular plant for purchase. Participants will wear second-generation Tobii eye-tracking glasses during their retail experience, which enables researchers to gather and analyze data about what shoppers look at, for how long, and in what sequence before making their purchase decision. Participants will also complete a questionnaire to further assess cues and previous product involvement that may influence their decision.behe-bridget

Huddleston says it's exciting to capture physical evidence through the eye-tracking technology, and to translate the results for retailers. Both she and Behe
also say the research charts new territory since previous research involving visual gaze path analysis has typically examined highly-packaged products in boxes and bottles—and not minimally packaged products like plants, apparel, furniture and art.

"This project will push us a bit more in our learning because we will capture, manage and relate visual data in a more realistic retail setting," says Behe. "And what better products to explore the shopping process than plants? Besides, if we all planted more plants, the world would be a better place."


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ComArtSci professor aims to improve family wellness with NSF Grant

Posted on: October 28, 2016

How can a virtual pet or plant help a family to establish healthy routines? Wei Peng, associate professor in the Department of Media and Information at the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, is developing a system called FRESH (Family Routine, Education, and Sensing Health) that will use familiar objects and environments to help families track wellness and improve health.

The goal of FRESH is to use mobile technology, like tablets and cell phones, to monitor a family’s behavior - including their diet, whether they eat together, their physical activity and sleeping habits. The built-in audio, motion, and light sensors necessary to acquire this information from families, as well as a unique algorithm for an app, are being developed in collaboration with MSU’s College of Engineering.  screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-4-16-06-pm

“The reason that we wanted to focus on these family routines is because these activities are very important for obesity prevention,” Peng said.

FRESH works by accessing and collecting data through sensors placed on family member devices with their permission.

The app then uses the information collected through the system, to show the findings through scenes such as a blossoming flower. As a family’s routine improves, the flower will grow and thrive, offering participants an image of their progress. The program also provides families with a support system since the app enables them to communicate with and learn from other families.

Peng said that preliminary testing in Greater Lansing shows that people are willing and excited to participate.

“Most of the families are very accepting because they see the benefits of helping the whole family to be more healthy,” she explained. “This outweighed the risk or the privacy concern.”

The collaborative project between Michigan State University and University of California, San Diego received a $1 million grant in September from the National Science Foundation and an additional $880,000 from MSU. Peng said the funding will solidify and support their 4-year plan.

By Savannah Swix


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Professor teaches first response training in India, developing online module

Posted on: October 4, 2016

In August, Amol Pavangadkar took a break from teaching film, video, and audio production to students in the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences and instead co-directed a First Responder Training Workshop in Delhi, India. He worked alongside his colleague and Associate Dean at Texas Tech University Dinesh Vyas who heads the program. The intention of the training was to teach people about appropriate medical response during emergency situations, such as an auto accident.

“India has the highest mortality and mobility rate of accident victims in the world. There are thousands of accidents and close to 1,000-plus people die in India every day, in terms of accidents,” said Pavangadkar, a senior teaching specialist in the Department of Media and Information. “Most of it is due to the lack of response in such cases; at times it’s even because of lack of appropriate response.”

amol1Although this was the 12th time the workshop has been organized, this year’s focus was unique since it targeted students in 9th to 12th grade. Pavangadkar said this was arranged in an effort to “get them involved with this project much earlier in life” so they could learn how they can help even at a young age.

The day-long training took place at 11 schools in the Bharti Public School system. During the workshop, students moved from four different stations and were instructed in how to assess and care for four mannequins with different conditions that included broken limbs, internal bleeding, or head and spinal injuries.

While Pavangadkar is not trained in the medical field, he is leading efforts to create an online hybrid module where 80 to 85 percent of the training can be completed online and the rest through hands-on experience. The program recently partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education, which Pavangadkar said means more resources and increased opportunity for expansion in schools across India.  

“If everything goes according to plan, 77,000 schools in India will offer this training,” Pavangadkar said. “It’s more of a sensitization than actually hands-on training.”amol

By Savannah Swix


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Honour Water: A Singing Game for Healing the Waters

Posted on: September 8, 2016

An assistant professor of Media and Information, Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at MSU has drawn on her heritage to design a singing game that raises awareness of threats to water and offers paths to healing through song.

As an Anishinaabe, Metis and Irish game developer and researcher, Elizabeth LaPensée’s knowledge became a valuable asset in ensuring the accuracy and genuinity of Honour Water.

The game was developed by Pinnguaq with LaPensée in partnership with Nibi Walks and the Research for Indigenous Community Health Center. Support was also provided by The Pollination Project.thewomenedit

LaPensée said Honour Water “draws on Indigenous ways of knowing to reinforce Anishinaabeg teachings with hope for healing waters.”

The inspiration for the game came from Anishinaabe grandmothers who lead ceremonial walks called Nibi walks.

Because water songs are more prevalent in some areas over others, LaPensée, who was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest local, brought these songs to Anishinaabe gatherings at a Native American Youth and Family Center where community members could discuss their language, song, thoughts, and food.

Since not everyone could attend such gatherings, LaPensée created Honour Water as a means to pass on both the language and the water songs.

Water carriers, singers, and native language speakers joined forces to work on Honour Water. LaPensée said they came together with “the hope of sharing songs for healing the waters that can be shared with all people, because the wellbeing of water is vital for all life.”

The game lets players follow a scrolling text in English and Anishinaabemowin to sing along with the Oshkii Giizhik Singers.

“Fun gameplay passes on these songs in a way that encourages comfort with singing and learning Anishinaabemowin,” LaPensée said. “Honour Water offers a way to become comfortable with the vocables of Anishinaabemowin and learn about Nibi (water).”

Honour Water will be exhibited at the leading Indigenous media arts festival: imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

The game is now available through the Apple iTunes store and can also be accessed through

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ComArtSci researcher develops first-of-its kind virtual reality guided movement meditations

Posted on: July 26, 2016

VR Mindfulness

People who find it too hard to sit and meditate have an exotic alternative thanks to first-of-its kind virtual reality movement meditations developed by a researcher and game designer at Michigan State University.

Professor of Media and Information Carrie Heeter in the College of ComArtSci collaborated with mind-body therapist and meditation expert Marcel Allbritton, Ph.D., to create meditations for the Guided Meditation VR (virtual reality) platform. Mindtoon™ movement meditations guide users through steps involving breath, gentle movement, and attention to relax the body and calm the mind.

"You chose one of the Guided Meditation VR’s natural environments. Then you choose a meditation," Heeter said. "Each Mindtoon also supports experiencing and cultivating a particular quality, such as stability, comfort, clarity or releasing."

Heeter developed six new VR guided meditations and adapted four of her original Mindtoon smartphone app meditations to offer 10 meditations, each 10 minutes in length, for the VR platform. Each Mindtoon applies the tools and philosophy of the TKV Desikachar system of yoga, with meditations facilitated within lush VR environments.

Heeter says it has been a fascinating adventure to figure out ways to adapt traditional eyes-closed meditations to work well with eyes open in a virtual world. She drew on her background in user experience design as well as VR and game design. Allbritton, who is Heeter’s meditation teacher, brought his deep knowledge of meditation to shape the process and products.

The set of coherent, consistent VR meditations will be used by Heeter to study applications and outcomes of cyber meditation. Upcoming studies include comparing meditations done with eyes open in a virtual environment to meditations done with eyes closed using smartphone apps. Other research will examine the efficacy of long-term use of guided meditations on stress reduction, resilience, and attention- and emotion-regulation in different populations such as health care professionals and MSU students.

Heeter's guided meditations are available through the Guided Meditation VR app made by Cubicle Ninjas for Gear VR. The app is free and has been downloaded more than 100,000 times since it was launched in June.

For more information, visit

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GEL Lab collaborates with MSUFCU on new game Saving Draggy

Posted on: May 26, 2016

Saving Draggy

The Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab at MSU, part of the Media and Information (M&I) department in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (ComArtSci), recently completed a new game sponsored by the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) called Saving Draggy.

Targeted to kids aged 5 -10, Saving Draggy focuses on increasing their cognition and understanding of basic financial concepts as they engage in an epic quest to save Draggy – their baby dragon. All graphics, music, code, script, story and game design were created by undergraduate M & I and computer science students in conjunction with Associate Professor Brian Winn.

So far, the game is a hit. At least that’s what Winn told us after performing a few rounds of user testing with kids aged 5-10, “(The) kids had a very positive response to the game. They were excited about the theme (saving your baby dragon in an epic adventure game) and really liked the mini games embedded within the larger adventure game.”

This isn’t the first time the GEL Lab and MSUFCU have partnered on a gaming project. In fact, Saving Draggy is the fourth financial literacy game MSU has created with the credit union. Past games include Spartan Villa (ages 17+), Saving Magic (ages 10-13) and Saving with Piggy (ages 2-5). The GEL Lab is currently working on the fifth game for MSUFCU, geared for ages 13-16.

Saving Draggy is available on the web, Apple iOS and Android. It is 100% free to download and play.

By Nikki W. O'Meara

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ComArtSci + WKAR develop app that empowers Flint residents during water crisis

Posted on: March 1, 2016

EmpowerFlintwpMichigan State University and WKAR-TV have put the power of information in the hands of Flint residents through a new tool that navigates community resources in the wake of the ongoing water crisis.

The mobile app "Empower Flint" provides a checklist of important actions people can take to protect themselves, their families and pets as they battle elevated lead levels in the water supply. Released March 1, the app was developed by a team of researchers and specialists from MSU, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and WKAR-TV in collaboration with the people of Flint.

"Our goal was to build something that adapts to the needs identified by Flint residents, and that stands the test of time as community needs evolve," said Kami Silk, MSU associate dean for research and professor of communication and agbio research. "Our hopes are that the app will fill an information gap and be embraced as coming from a trusted and familiar voice in Flint: MSU."

The app's "find" operation enables users to search for the closest water stations, free water filters, lead testing sites, community events, and sources of nutritious food. Users will also find directional maps, news feeds, and volunteer and community activities at their fingertips. Most important, "Empower Flint" pushes out critical alerts about water safety, lead levels, and immediate steps that residents can take for personal and public health.

"We saw a lot of experts and community partners providing a lot of important information," said WKAR-TV Station Manager Susi Elkins. "Since we're communicators, we saw it as a chance to put our expertise to use for the greater good and devise a way to make communicating that information as easy as possible."

Associate Professor of Media and Information Brian Winn led the development of the app starting in mid-January with members of the College of ComArtSci's GEL Lab.




"The idea was to put as much Flint-related information as possible in the hands of users," said Winn. "We also set out to build in longevity and provide support for the long haul."

Developers say the university's strong presence in Flint will contribute to the app's sustainability. Working with the Flint branches of MSU Extension and the College of Human Medicine, Silk and Elkins assembled ongoing focus groups of residents to test and provide feedback the app.

Professor of Human Medicine Rick Sadler was among the partners helping developers connect with future app users. Since 2008, the public health expert has been working to provide healthy food options to Flint residents.

“The great thing about apps is that you can routinely push new info to the public, making it easier to stay up to date," Sadler said. "This is really important in our current situation, and this app is a way we can combine our efforts."

Elkins acknowledged that not everyone in Flint will have a smartphone to use the app, but reflected that at-risk communities tend to have mobile devices more than cable, TV or the Internet. Elkins said she and Silk will be working with community partners to identify a team of Flint residents to help roll out the app as well as to communicate information accessible through the app to people who don't have smartphones.

For one community member involved in app testing, that value of "Empower Flint" is already apparent.

"I have three kids with elevated lead in their blood," said the Flint resident. "Until I saw the app, I didn't know they were supposed to have increased calcium, so now I'll make sure they get more milk and cheese."

The "Empower Flint" app is available for both Android and Apple iOS smart phones and tablets, and can be found on Google Play and the Apple App Store. WKAR and the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences collaborated with a number of partners, including Central Michigan 2-1-1, MSU Extension, the colleges of Human Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the residents of Flint.

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Freaky Deaky Flashback (Spring 2013)

Posted on: April 10, 2013

Date: Spring 2013

Funding: Project in Game Design and Development Capstone course with Pixo Entertainment and Eyde Studios

Authors: PI: Brian Winn, Student Team: Justin Girard, Matthew Vorce, Ryan Rogers, Mbongeni Chirunga, Hao Wu, Christopher Edwards, Rick Meurs, and Serena Nash

In Freaky Deaky Flashback, you assume the role of an undercover FBI Agent, Daniel Jacobs, immersed in the rebellious counter-culture of the late-1960s. You must infiltrate a group of deviant college students whose peaceful demonstrations have turned explosive. Your goal is to figure out who set off a bomb during a student demonstration and apprehend the suspects before they do any more damage.

Freaky Deaky Flashback is based on the Freaky Deaky book by Elmore Leonard and motion picture directed by Charles Matthau. In Flashback, the player interacts with Robin Abbot, Skip Gibbs, Mark and Woody Ricks, Donnell Lewis, and Chris Mankowski in their youth, providing a rich backstory on the characters in Freaky Deaky.

Flashback features an explosive bomb defusal puzzle (Dynamite Dash), a high-speed chase game (Hot Pursuit), and an intense shootout game (Fully Loaded). Across the games, players can aspire to earn forty-eight achievements and level up across ten ranks of ability. The game’s story is told through a sequence of compelling motion comics (aka, "flashback" sequences). The game also provides details on the Freaky Deaky motion picture; include a film synopsis, trailer, and character overviews.

The game was developed through a unique collaborative effort between students in the Michigan State University Game Design and Development Specialization, Eyde Studios located in East Lansing, MI, and Pixo Entertainment located in Southfield, MI.

Project URL:

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Downriver - Michigan Creative Film Alliance (Summer 2012 - Spring 2013)

Posted on: July 30, 2012

downriver-posterDate: Summer 2012 - Spring 2013

Authors: Students of the Michigan Creative Film Alliance (MSU, U of M, and Wayne State) along with select faculty:
Michigan State University - Bob Albers, Troy Hale, Gary Reid, Valeta Wensloff
University of Michigan - Jim Burnstein, Robert Rayher
Wayne State University - Juanita Anderson

Downriver is the result of a collaboration between three universities' top film and video students. The world premiere of Downriver took place Thursday, April 25, 2013 at the Detroit Film Theatre. The program was followed by a dessert afterglow.

DOWNRIVER: In the wake of his father's sudden death, sixteen-year-old Alex is thrust from his posh, suburban lifestyle, into life on the other side of the tracks. There, Crystal, his older, estranged half-sister, rules the roost with her crazed son and live-in boyfriend. Alex's struggle to build a home with Crystal, and her downriver family is the stuff heartfelt classic comedies are made of.

The Michigan Creative Film Alliance is an exciting, joint venture between three top research universities: Michigan State University, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University. These universities proposed a historic, innovative, collaborative alliance to drive talent and resources toward the creation and sustainment of an indigenous film community across the state. This collaboration begins with a one-semester class for select students of the three universities. These students have the opportunity to create a short film, utilizing their own talents and skills while being mentored by top instructors in the field.

Project URL:

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QMRA Wiki (Spring 2012)

Posted on: April 7, 2012


Date: Spring 2012

Authors: Jonathan Obar, Valeta Wensloff

QMRAwiki is the QMRA community's portal for current quantitative information and knowledge developed for the Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) field. It is an evolving repository for QMRA knowledge and data available to the risk analysis community.

This wiki (still in development) is being created in collaboration with TISM and CAMRA (Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessement).

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