When I was in 3rd grade, I got a calculator watch. It was awesome. I was already on my way to being a nerd by having this black plastic wristwatch that allowed me to add, subtract, multiply and divide using the tiny buttons. A bunch of my friends had them too. It was actually cool to have a calculator watch because it was a new gadget that kids wanted. But then something happened.
The idea of the watch got old. While it was cool having those little buttons to do math, I actually didn't need to do math all that often. And the little buttons didn't make it easy for me to do math anyway. It was easier to use a real calculator. So I stopped wearing the calculator watch. And so did the other kids in my school who had one.
Wearable devices, like Fitbits, Basis Bands, and Jawbones, aren't that different from the calculator watch right now. They have a lot of potential, but they haven't yet reach that potential. They're cool gadgets, but that's about it. And that's why people stop using them within a few months of getting them. What can be done so that people keep wearing them?
They can be made more useful. They can incorporate the science of how to change behavior.
Psychologists have come a long way in understanding how to change human behavior. We started by studying habits in rats and cats 100 years ago, to studying social groups, and more recently how the brain and people’s social networks affect them.
Right now wearable devices track behavior. Many even incorporate gamification. But they're still in the early stages because they aren't yet tailored for what people need to change behavior.
Wearable fitness devices have tremendous potential to make people healthier, save healthcare costs, and make health easier. But to do that, the devices need to be useful. They need to be built using advancements in behavior change science, like the science of social.