fit just a bit (or not)
A recent study indicates that fitness bands/watches don’t necessarily help people lose weight. And in some cases, it can cause weight gain.
The telling quote in the piece:
So should you bin your Fitbit? Not yet. Jakicic thinks that combining this technology with behavioral research can help scientists figure out which groups of people benefit from fitness trackers, and even design interfaces that will be more motivational.
“These devices have some really cool tech, but how do you use them in a way that helps people?” Says Jakicic, “That’s a science in and of itself.”
In emulsional world speak, what’s missing is the binding agent – the story that helps a human understand the data and make it meaningful. We continue to engage in a wholesale adoption of the latest technology, yet consistently fail to focus on the “last nanometer” of the human experience. To-date the state of the art is colorful data plots – concentric circles, line graphs, etc. While these not doubt warm the hearts of people who are Excel-rangers, for most people it becomes essentially “chart junk” (ala Tufte).
The study pointed out that people were influenced by the fitness data in a variety of ways. The hoped-for result of good results inspiring even better results is only one of many possible outcomes. One twist was that people saw that they had “done good” in the exercise side of things, so they rewarded themselves with more food, leading to weight gain. And some others say their exercise data and were disillusioned in their performance, leading them to disengaging from the exercise regimen.
This illustrates how humans remain human, and the technology remains a separate entity, no matter how closely it is held. If I can see my data in a way that resonates with *me* (and not Joe Sixpack), then it can alter my behavior. This may be were chatbots and AI come into play as well, but only if they have a model of the human they are interacting with. Generic displays will always have limited impact. Interventions only work when emotions are touched. And those emotions are linked to history and story. Both of those elements can serve as the binding agent to achieve positive behavior change.