LifeLens: Redefining Lifelog Search with Innovative UX/UI Design

Lifelogging technologies, where individuals can digitally record, collect, organize, and revisit events of their lives, are becoming a prominent field of interest for researchers. At the University of Bergen, students explored lifelogging with a focus on enhancing the user experience. Two students, Maria Tysse Hordvik and Julie Sophie Teilstad Østby, dedicated their efforts to writing a research paper titled "LifeLens: Transforming Lifelog Search with Innovative UX/UI Design" and developing a user-friendly system called LifeLens.
Maria Tysse Hordvik & Julie Sophie Teilstad Østby
Publisert: 25. juli 2023

The project was part of the University of Bergen's MIX202 course, led by Duc-Tien Dang-Nguyen. Collaborating with PhD students from Dublin City University, they participated in the Lifelog Search Challenge at the ACM International Conference on Multimedia Retrieval in Thessaloniki, Greece. As UX-designers (UX design refers to “user experience design”), their mission was to create an intuitive and user-friendly interface for LifeLens.

Growing interest in recording ourselves, cheaper computer storage and sensing technology has led to the emergence of lifelogging. Lifelogging is the process where people can capture, collect, organize and revisit events of an individual's life using a variety of wearable devices. The purpose of lifelogging can vary as people may seek to record information about their health, personal experience, emotions or other aspects of their lives. However, one of the crucial requirements of the lifelog system is the ability to find any specific event in history. 

Bilde av de som deltok på konkurransen.

Introduction to lifelogging

Julie og Maria were introduced to lifelogging by Cathal Gurrin, who is an Associate Professor at the school of Computing, at Dublin City University. During his lecture, he told them about the Lifelog Search Challenge (LSC), an international competition for lifelog retrieval where teams compete to solve the described target sceneas fast as possible. LifeLens, the students' prototype, is therefore designed and developed specifically for this competition.

The Lifelog Search Challenge (LSC)
The LSC comprises two rounds: an expert round and a novice user round. Both rounds consist of 15 tasks within three themes: finding a specific photo, finding as many photos as possible, and question answering.  In the expert round, the backend is the most important factor, while the user interface plays a pivotal role in the novice user round, since participants are encountering the system for the first time. The ultimate goal is to submit the given task as swiftly as possible, emphasizing the need for an intuitive interface.

Discovering LifeSeeker: how to improve it?

The MIX202 students, who had no prior experience with lifelogging technologies, already experienced some issues regarding the ease of use. That indicated that the systems work well for the expert users, but may not for the novice users. After exploring these three themes, the motivation to design a system specifically for the novice user round was strong. 

Because of the lack of user-friendly interfaces in previous lifelogging systems, Julie and Maria examined existing systems, such as LifeSeeker, used in prior Lifelog Search Challenges. While these systems boasted advanced backend capabilities, their user interfaces fell short in terms of usability, particularly for novice users. Recognizing the need for improvement, the students focused on designing a system specifically tailored to the novice user round.

Discovering LifeSeeker: Identifying Areas for Improvement
Julie and Maria delved into their research by analyzing LifeSeeker, an interactive lifelog retrieval engine being developed at Dublin City University.  The backend in LifeSeeker is as good as it gets, but the interface needs some improvements. The query input was insufficient for lengthy queries with multiple keywords, the timeline feature proved confusing for novice users, and the result display appeared cluttered. Additionally, the system's shortcuts, while efficient for expert users, created navigational challenges for novices. These shortcomings motivated the students to devise an interface that addressed these issues.


Trying and failing

During the prototype design process where the purpose was to improve LifeSeeker, Julie and Maria designed several interfaces that could solve the given challenges. As shown in the photo, this was their first interface thought. The interface is similar to LifeSeeker, but it´s more user friendly. The images are not that crowded, and the buttons under the photos are descriptive with words and icons. The timeline is removed and replaced with the query that the user have entered under search and filter bar. In this way, the user can remove the search by crossing them out. However, challenges with shortcuts and submission methods remained unresolved.

So after publishing this interface, Julie and Maria realized that they had to come up with a better idea, better features. Recognizing the need for a better solution, the students undertook further brainstorming to create a more intuitive interface. After a long iterative design process, they introduced drag and drop functionality as the core feature of the system. This innovation led to the development of LifeLens, their interactive lifelog system that redefines the user experience.

The first interface idea, more user-friendly than LifeSeeker.

LifeLens Walkthrough
LifeLens showcases a minimalist user interface design tailored to improve the usability and ease of use for novice users. Complying with WCAG guidelines for accessible web content, the system prioritizes contrast, font size, and responsiveness across different devices. Its main functions include search, filter, timeline, and drag and drop capabilities.

LifeLens has a novel minimalist user interface design specifically designed to improve the usability for novice users. The students prioritized WCAG guidelines for accessible web content. This includes contrast between colors and fonts, font size, and responsive design for different devices. The main functions of LifeLens are search, filter, timeline and drag and drop. 

Search and Filter Bar: The search bar allows users to search for images, and the filterbar allows users to filter their search based on time, location and people. The search and filter queries will be displayed below each bar, available for the user to either remove or to be reminded. 

Timeline: Timeline is another feature included in Lifelens, allowing the user to either concretize the year, month or day the picture was taken, or define a date range. 

The user feedback - Drag and Drop: Once the user inputs a query in the search box, the resulting images will be displayed. The user feedback feature provides a section on the left column named “similar images” and “submit images”, with the option of dragging and dropping photos. It’s also easy to remove images if the user changes their mind, simply by dragging them out. 


Photos dragged to “Similar images” and then pressing the Similar-button, will result in related images. This feature also enables the search algorithm to improve continuously by analyzing the images selected by the user and drag and drop in the similar images section to find the most suited image for the query. 

For the purpose of the LSC challenge, the UI is enabled to include another section called the “submit section” below the “similar images” section. Users can drag and drop from the results section to the submit section and click on the submit button to submit the images to the LSC challenge. 

Lifelens incorporates a simple color scheme comprising blue, gray, and white. We have always prioritized adhering to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure that the contrast between the background colors and fonts meets the required standards. Furthermore, Lifelens follows WCAG recommendations for font size, with a minimum of 16px, and the system is designed to be responsive across different devices for enhanced accessibility.

"As UX-designers with big dreams and ambitions, the backend isn't always our best friend", say Julie and Maria. "The developers had some problems with implementing the main functions which were “drag and drop” and “timeframe”. Since we used the same backend as LifeSeeker, the interface nearly looked the same as this system because of the backend challenges."

Future Prospects

As UX-designers, Julie and Maria recognize the importance of user research and testing. They plan to prioritize these aspects in their future endeavors, aiming to enhance the system's speed and user-friendliness. While the current design aligns with the competition requirements, they envision incorporating additional features such as maps and a calendar to expand LifeLens' overall functionality and user experience. Further collaboration with other lifelogging systems and gathering user feedback will guide the team in refining and developing future iterations of LifeLens.

Want to know more about LifeLens? Find the research paper about lifelogging by Julie and Maria here!

Publisert: 25. juli 2023
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