Nike Fuelband and Feedback Loops – Why They Matter

I’ve been entranced by the Nike Fuelband ever since I found out about it. Not necessarily because I’m a runner and psyched to track my “fuel” (I wish), but because it is one of the first examples of a health-centric feedback loop that is actually cool.

Awhile back I wrote about feedback loops, which are automatic data streams that can alert people about anything from how fast they’re driving to how dry their plants are to how many calories they are burning. These have a powerful potential to change human behavior by making us deal with realities we otherwise wouldn’t know about. For example, if you had a constant reminder that you were eating 500 extra calories every day, you’d probably can it. While you could know this with a manual entry program like Livestrong’s My Plate, a feedback loop would remove the necessity for you to enter info, making it automatic.

The Nike Fuelband calculates your “Nike Fuel,” which according to Gizmodo is done by turning information about oxygen into data, along with using an accelerometer, which has proven to be at least somewhat useful in measuring calories burned. Basically, it’s scientifically impressive and mysterious, while locked into the Nike culture that makes something a lot cooler to be seen in than your standard body monitoring device.

This could be the first mainstream adaption of the power of feedback loops, which could actually help a large number of people become healthier. Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity should definitely take note.

While I can imagine that Fuelband 3.0 might be a bit more unassuming and sleek in design, I’m still impressed by where Nike is at right now. Considering that people are suddenly clamoring to buy these (they’re sold out right now) and the brand today announced its new knit shoes, I’m starting to wonder if Nike isn’t the next Apple in terms of innovation.

Check out the Fuelband here.

-Becky Lang



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