Professor awarded NIH grant to create an avatar for HIV care
Associate Professor of Computer Science S. James Lee has been awarded $325,295 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a research collaboration with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health to develop an avatar-based mobile phone application to promote HIV care among HIV-positive African American men.
Lee, who specializes in avatars and computer graphics and visualization for interactive applications, and his undergraduate student researchers will develop the mobile avatar intervention application over the course of the project. Their work will include revising the avatar in response to feedback from focus group participants and beta testers. They will also add a female avatar model, provide support for a pilot study and a randomized controlled clinical trial in three cities, analyze data from app usage, and continue system optimization throughout the project to maximize the real-time responsiveness of the app.
“Our preliminary work with young HIV-positive African American men demonstrates a strong desire for the app,” Lee said.
“We hope that providing an empathetic talking Avatar source of HIV-related information, motivation and behavioral skills that is as private and convenient as one’s own mobile phone will produce a high impact by overcoming barriers to HIV adherence and retention in care.”
Connecticut College undergraduates will be involved in all aspects of the project, including the research, design, refinement and deployment of the technology. The grant funds one student research assistant each summer, and students will participate in research under Lee’s supervision throughout the academic year. The grant also provides funds for travel and equipment.
This grant is 100 percent federally funded.