The Rise of Sensor-Based Apps and Wearables

I’m a big fan of sensor-based apps and personal wearables, as they bring with them vast potential for utilizing motivational data, content and feedback loops for things like self-improvement, optimal health and ultimately the gamification of every day life.

Nike has been playing a leadership role in this area for a few years now with their Nike+ sensor and app, and they are stepping it up once again with the release of the new Nike+ FuelBand.

While not perfect, the FuelBand has some very nice design features, and brings a new metric approach for motivating users to be active throughout the day.

Designed as a stylish and sleek bracelet (not too different than those yellow LiveStrong bangles), the FuelBand represents forward movement in tech fashion, with a device people might actually wear on a daily basis. As a bracelet on the wrist, rather than a chip tucked away in a shoe, it allows for a simple feedback display to be  viewed throughout the day. Here again, Nike has done a smart job to simplify this data down to some core metrics, along with with a power-meter that gets longer  in length and hotter in color the more “fuel” the wearer burns.  This meter-bar clearly indicates that feedback loops are key for continued motivational aspects.  Rather than pulling out your Nano, or iPhone, just look at the wrist as if checkin the time.

The Nike+ Fuel Band tracks your daily activity using an internal accelerometer (which senses your movement).  Time, Calories, Steps and NikeFuel are all tracked. The new “Fuel” metric is interesting and unique to Nike, as it matches a person’s movement through the wristband’s accelerometer against data collected on how rapidly oxygen is consumed.  This may not be the best way to track fitness, as it still relies primarily on an accelerometer, and the readings will vary greatly depending on how much you move your arm. If you were to ride a bike the sensor would probably read this activity as burning less Fuel than if you were sitting in a chair just waving your hand around.

While, I am not yet sold that the Fuel Band will be a big hit, or that it brings tremendous value for the price, I am impressed with what it represents as a sign of where things are going in sensor-based wearables and apps. We are only getting started.

As chip prices keep coming down, and sensors keep getting smaller, they will get embedded in more and more wearables, such as watches, clothing, jewelry…  and the feedback displays will likely end up moving onto our eyewear and sunglasses, utilizing heads-up-display technology. This is when things get even more interesting from my standpoint. The user can now have an always-on feedback loop, monitoring things like heart-rate, and eventually things like stress levels, blood pressure and more.

Once we start to gamily the feedback loops, or one can imagine how achieving our optimal health will become much more manageable and fun with such tech. Signs that this world is not so far off can be seen with announcements like this one, for Googles HUD Glasses.

Here is a mock-up image I made a while back for a presentation on LBS & AR Gaming.  The idea here is that we will someday be able to wear stylish Heads-Up-Display enabled eyewear, which could feed us our biometric data, along with other stats and game elements throughout the day. This example highlights the idea of a Nike+ AR  Pac-Man type App — set a course, and see GPS enabled landmarks as motivational collectibles to race towards and gobble up within a certain amount of time.  Comparing scores and results against friends in this type of game scenario would certainly be a nice evolution to the Nike Tag challenge program we have today.

There are a few players in this field now, with Jawbone, Fitbit, Motorola, and a couple others releasing their versions of wristbands, watches, etc.. for tracking daily activity.  I imagine there will be more entrants in the coming years.  Still, Nike continues to be a major brand associated with health and fitness and will likely continue to play a strong role in the evolution of tracking our daily lives.

I’d love to hear from people focused in this field professionally, and get your take on the state of this industry, and where things are going. As Ogmento continues to develop Location-Based Augmented Reality games and content, the convergence of these two worlds in a few years is inevitable.

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2 thoughts on “The Rise of Sensor-Based Apps and Wearables

  1. Sensors and wearables will also be super-interesting when they are incorporated into deep transmedia storytelling.

    Imagine certain parts of a larger narrative adjusting to your location, your mood and such. Plot points or character strengths could be dependent on how many people are actually wearing the ‘special bracelet’. Character needs to run to catch a hover-car? 5,000 people had better start running (irl) in order for that character to succeed in the story.

  2. The nike wristband seems lightweight, which is good. I’m sure watches of the data feed sort like Lunatik+Tiktok are heavier. I guess the plus in having datafeed on your wrist is that it could also calculate your pulse, thus making it a new age sports tool. But what if it is incorporated with Siri? If it could incorporate all the database inside that small wristband, then you could speak to it and it would respond. What about it’s incorporation with the Apple TV? Couldn’t we say “Turn On” and the wristband would automatically turn on our TV or when we say “Play Mission Impossible” and it plays movies too?

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