App Uses Smartphone Lock Screen To Poll Users

App Uses Smartphone Lock Screen To Poll Users

Twitch aims to simplify crowdsourced data collection by taking advantage of our phone-checking compulsions.

Alan Khanukaev
  • 4 february 2014

Twitch is a mobile app interface that replaces the lock screen on your phone with a one question poll. Developed by Keith Wyngarden, Brandon Cheung, Michael Bernstein, and Rajan Vaish in Stanford’s Computer Science Department, the app takes advantage of an automatic behavior that most of us do hundreds of times a day, obsessively checking our phones, and re-purposes it for the benefit of the science and research.

This type of data collection through crowdsourcing isn’t terribly new. Several companies, like Amazon’s mTurk, have turned to micro-tasks as a way of easily collecting large amounts of data through incremental contributions from a large participant pool. However, the issue is that even small tasks generally require some kind of deliberate effort on the part of the user; they either have to pull up the site or open the app and then purposefully engage in the tasks. Consequently, participation and retention tends to be fairly low since people forget about it or quickly lose interest.

Twitch, on the other hand, capitalizes on spare moments. Rather than forcing the user to take the initiative, the app simplifies the process and just presents a single question every time the phone is unlocked. According to Vaish, by limiting the tasks to one at a time,  Twitch minimizes the required time commitment and therefore encourages participation.

This simplification of the overall process and the speed at which questions are answered are key to the success of Twitch; the entire task needs to be comparable to the swipe-to-unlock gesture. Once the app is installed it presents the user with short, simple questions – like “energy level?” or “people around?” – as well as intuitive icons which minimize the cognitive effort required of the user and shortens the total response time.

Currently Twitch’s mission is more scientific in nature but the concept is something that could be easily applied to other areas and might be especially compelling for brands and retailers who can utilize the app for almost immediate feedback and basic survey data.

As part of the initial roll out, Twitch recruited 82 people who  managed to complete 11,200 tasks in only three weeks, and as of today the app has collected over 25,000 individual data points. Available only on Android, you can head over to the Google Play store to try it out for yourself.


Images: Google Play
Sources: New Scientist,

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