- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Two University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are trying to implement a new way of analyzing behavior, social networks and relationships with a new mobile app and software.

Sociology professors Bilal Khan and Kirk Dombrowski have earned a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to create an app that will track study participants’ interactions in real time, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1PNLZm9 ) reports.

The mobile app will take the place of a human researcher by creating questions and asking them to participants as they interact in social situations.

Khan and Dombrowski say they believe the phone will be able to gather more information while being less intrusive than a sociologist interrupting the interaction, and they hope the private sector and the research world will benefit from the app.

“The time to ask questions is in the moment,” Khan said. “Traditional scientists ask much after the fact of the matter and people tend to rewrite history and their memory. There’s a lot of manipulation, and information gets lost.”

A smart phone would provide censors through Bluetooth settings that allow the phone to read its owner, other people in a room and who they interact with. By using coding numbers assigned to each participant, the phone will then collect the data.

Shortly after participant interactions, the phone app will act as a sociologist and pick a question to ask the person based on the data collected.

They want the app will benefit research in public and rural health, the workplace and psychological studies. The professors also believe the app can be applied to the study of a variety of subjects like obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and juvenile delinquency.

The app and software are scheduled to be running in three years.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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