Weeknote 16.0

Rough cuts and three proposals for the future of personal tracking devices

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

I worked throughout weekend into Monday to create motion graphics visualizing age in After Effects, then composited it with footage edited in Final Cut Pro (Fig. 1) The concentric circles seen in the study telegraph the user interface of the sensor. After further editing, I came across the line “Like a clock keeping time, the physical display communicates information at-a-glance” in the script and realized that I forgot to capture any footage during last week’s shoot to illustrate the point. I spent Tuesday afternoon recreating the scene in the bedroom of my apartment. Shooting a with a shallow depth of field, the two locations are indistinguishable. (Fig. 2) On Wednesday, I uploaded the first rough cut that featured all of the scene footage, motion graphics, and sound effects. (Fig. 3)

In preparation for thesis defense, I convened with classmate Cooper Smith for help in framing my thesis in light of quantified self and personal activity trackers, in particular the Nike+ Fuelband. I asked him about Nike’s metric, Fuel, and he cited an recent Fast Company article wherein Ricky Engelberg describes Fuel as a “universal currency” that isn’t about “reps or laps”, rather it is an “[…] index of everything you do.” Fuel is the metric to Fuelband as life remaining (life expectancy – biological age) is the metric to Memento Mori. Fuel is visualized by 20 color LED lights gradated from red to green reflecting universal activity; Memento Mori is visualized by living embodiments of chronological and biological age that age synchronously or asynchronously reflecting health behavior.

My thesis makes three proposals for the future of personal tracking devices.

  1. As sensor and wireless technology become smaller and offer greater range, personal tracking devices won’t be offered as wearable fashion accessories or jewelry. Because of ever-reducing costs to manufacture they will be multiple and plentiful, look inconspicuous, and shrink. When they become too small to carry, they will be sewn onto our clothes as buttons, or they will become the very thread that stitch together fabric. If by 2017, the wearable tracking device market will number 170 million, by 2027, half of Americans will have some kind of sensor implanted in their body.
  2. Interaction designers will devise new methods of making data “human-scale” (A data point of 1,652,665 steps is equivalent to a human-scale distance of 826 miles) and new metrics for fitness and health.
  3. Interaction designers will look to the physical world to visualize data and metrics (I propose living organisms as avatars).

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