Do wearables make us obsess over tracking?
Once upon a time we rose with the dawn and worked in the fields. We ate food which was fresh, local and unadulterated. If we didn’t die of an illness which would be easily cured today, we lived to a ripe old age. Today we work in offices, sitting down for most of the day. We eat food from around the world, most of it full of chemicals. We are obsessed by appearing youthful and living as long as possible and we wear Fitbit’s. We don’t like biometric databases; we don’t like the proliferation of CCTV, but we love wearables.
Wearables are our magic amulet, no sinister illness is going to creep up on you because you’ve got the stats there on your wrist, you’re better informed than your doctor, way better. ‘Quantified self’ was a term coined back in 2007 by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine.
Chris Dancy, a 44-year-old technology consultant is a contemporary example of quantified man. He wears six body sensors and uses between three and four hundred systems to collect data under ten category headings. Clearly he is an extreme example, but a fifth of all American 15-34 years-olds now wear a fitness tracker and some of them shouldn’t. For people with a history of mental health problems or compulsive personalities the relentless monitoring of calories and exercise levels can be psychologically damaging.
Usually, startups get swallowed, Fitbit is an example of a product that’s held its own and survived. It has a thirty-four percent share of the American market, is sold in more than fifty countries and has twenty-nine million devices registered worldwide. It is generally regarded as a good thing, motivating weight loss and increasing fitness, but are its days numbered.
Tracking is a feature of a device, it’s not a product in itself and the product that Fitbit is up against is the Apple Watch. There was a lot of criticism of this product initially, perhaps people were expecting too much. It saves you taking your iPhone out of your pocket, so what. It’s a lifestyle accessory that’s what, it’s a Fitbit but better: it allows instant social connectivity, download the app and you can even use it to pay for things. And its sales are growing.
So, what about the new kid on the block, EEG headsets? Well, unfortunately, they can’t read your mind, yet. You may have seen some of the cool things they can do on YouTube, enabling the user to control a powered skateboard or helping physically impaired musicians make music but despite the technology having been around for fifty years or so, it’s still in its infancy.
Currently its most interesting application is in terms of what it can tell us about the activity of the human brain under certain conditions, such as the study conducted by PartyPoker, which compared the responses of amateurs and professionals at key moments during a poker game. I think it’ll be a while though before EEG headsets become as popular as Fitbit’s. One thing’s for sure though, our lifestyles will continue to become increasingly (un)healthy and we will continue to monitor every heartbeat.
Are you obsessed about tracking your activity with your Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other wearable device? Walk on over to our comments section and let us know!
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