Wearable technology is nothing new. I know you remember the Casio calculator watch from the from the 1980s. Recently though, things have gotten a bit more interesting or at least more trendy.
I am by no means a tech connoisseur, but I have been rocking this second-gen Nike+ Fuelband around for the last year or so. I remember my initial thoughts on the Fuelband before I got one. It went something like “that’s kind of cool but no way I’m dropping over $100 for a blinking band.” Luckily, a friend overheard my cheap groaning and offered to give me the extra Fuelband that he inexplicably had “lying around.” I acted like I couldn’t accept such a gift while grabbing it out of his hand. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to start using my new wearable tech and for the next few months I was never seen without it.
I raved about it to friends and family while quickly convincing myself that Nike’s arbitrary Fuel Points system made “so much sense.” After using it for a week, I concluded “I’d definitely pay $150 for one of these.” I guess you could say, I drank the Kool-Aid punch.
Initially, the Fuelband and I were like spinach and Pop-eye. I was working out harder and running more often. I wanted more and more fuel points. There’s something about putting an objective number on a person’s daily activity. It made me feel accountable for my own laziness in a new way. The Fuelband doesn’t just tell you your fuel score for the day. It remembers your scores and, if you synch it to your computer or phone, it lays out all of your points on a graph in a weekly, monthly or yearly view. I quickly realized that this little band is actually a powerful data tool if used correctly. It is a little pseudo-science project on your wrist and as I would find out, it also has the potential to make you a little crazy. For a couple of months, the fuel band ruled but the excitement began to fade.
Soon, it stopped feeling like motivation on my wrist and started feeling like resentment. When I didn’t have time for the gym or a run, the less than stellar fuel scores began to make me feel like I was lazy when I wasn’t. 436 (Daily Activity) out of 5000 (Daily Goal) is not a great Fuel points percentage. I knew that it was only supposed to be an approximate measurement of daily movement but putting that objective number on my day, everyday, for months, is a dangerous proposition. It is especially dangerous when it comes from the Fuelband. That band was something I really liked and it tied closely into something I love – exercise. In my mind, the Fuelband isn’t just a gadget. It’s Facebook page alone garners well over 200,000 likes. It is a living, breathing community of thousands and thousands of people who you can interact with and whose stories can be viewed and followed. The Fuelband has developed a sort of mini-cultural movement. That movement carries with it some weight. I know this story may sound crazy but if you haven’t owned a fuel band yet, try it. You may not get into it like I did but the psychology of the whole thing just might surprise you.
I quickly got over the wrist resentment and the mini freakout of feeling objectively lazy. It’s about a year later, and I still use my Fuelband from time to time. I’ll admit though that it often ends up serving only as a glorified wrist-watch. The fuel points system is a fun idea but not without holes. It performs best when measuring running which is all I really use it for these days. When I see a Fuelband around NYC, it often seems like a “status-symbol” in the same way an iPhone usually does and the hypebeasts tell me it’s “cool” for now. Despite the not so iron-clad point measurements and unexpected social implications, I would still pay full price for one of these. In fact I did, as a birthday gift for my dad. There is something about the Fuelband that is very similar to much of Nike’s brand. It has a mysterious and yet universally recognized eerie of cool. From LES high fashion kids to midwestern housewives to my own grandparents, everyone seems to like the Fuelband and somehow knows that it’s cool. If you’re still on the fence and need another reason then here you go. The Fuelband just became a collector’s item. Nike recently announced it’s departure from the hardware side of wearable tech and possibly the end of the Fuelband as we know it. There has been some speculation that much of Nike’s wearable tech R&D will be transferred over to Apple and may eventually reveal itself to the public in the form of the aptly named iWatch program. An equally welcome and ridiculous addition to the Apple family if you ask me. So before we’re all getting texts on our watches while simultaneously tracking biometrics, enjoy simpler times. Check out a Fuelband. Bottom line, it’s an exciting piece of wearable tech and one that I’d recommend. Just try to not get too sucked in. The fuel points “goal” should never be your goal.
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