Computer Culture / Tech Tools

Fitness Apps: We’ve Become Our Own Giga Pet

tamagotchiI’ve downloaded many health apps, and the two that work best are MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper. MyFitnessPal allows me to keep track of what I’m eating (with a barcode scanner for those preprocessed foods), and I can’t seem to get enough of all the numbers and graphs that it makes for me. I mean, I’d never realized how hard it is to keep sugar intake at a minimum, until using this app. The graphs in RunKeeper are even more compelling, showing elevation, speed, and distance, so you can track your progress.

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My PetSociety pet.

I suppose this is a household application of what they call “gamification.” It’s all about numbers, objectives, and achievements, right? Maybe a more obvious example of gamification is the exercise game Zombies, Run!, where you go on missions as you run from hoards of the undead.

With a $12,500 goal, that game made $72,627 dollars on Kickstarter in 2011. That’s great for all those Left 4 Dead players who enjoy rushes of adrenalin and the occasional zombie apocalypse. For the casual gamer, there’s always Tamagotchi. Remember those? 20 years ago, for about $20, I could have my own virtual pet in an egg with the typical LCD screen of handheld games back then. Later, when I got the internet, I adopted my very own virtual Neopet. When Facebook came around I adopted once again in Playfish’s PetSociety.

TheSims games are probably one of the most popular instances of simulated life, where, similar to the gigapets, you control a life that needs to eat, poop, and be happy.

I walked into a Verizon store the other day, mainly because I saw that they now sold quadcopters. They asked if I wanted to see it fly, and, of course, I said yes. While waiting, I noticed that Verizon is not longer just phones. They had a whole display showcasing fancy thermostats and wristbands.

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According to Amazon, here are some of the features of these wristbands/Fitbits/hightech pedometers.

  • Tracks steps, distance, calories burned and stairs climbed
  • Monitor how long and how well you sleep
  • Wakes you (and not your partner) with a silent alarm
  • Syncs automatically to your computer or select smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth 4.0
  • Set goals, view progress and earn badges
  • Small and discreet enough to wear all day- tuck it into a pocket or clip it to a belt or bra

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So, we’ve become our own tamagotchi. I mean, if you didn’t carry your tamagotchi, they’d become very lonely, or worse, starve. These little Fitbit devices get carried around, keeping score of how we treat ourselves as opposed to our virtual pets.

And if that wasn’t enough, I just recently saw this on Facebook about an app, called GymPact. The caption read: “Made $20 just for showing up!” What?! Who’s paying her to go to the gym. Most of my friends are young professionals, maybe it’s her company? No, the money comes from all the people who didn’t go to the gym. You make a pact as to how much you want to work out, set the stakes for how much you’ll pay if you don’t, and every week, the money from the people that didn’t meet their quota gets divided among the people who did.

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I close with her comment of: “I need a goal with this extra fund. Once I hit $100, I will use it towards….a Fitbit scale.”

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One thought on “Fitness Apps: We’ve Become Our Own Giga Pet

  1. I love the idea of the bet on the Gym and also I didn’t know that these fitbits worked as alarms as well! You’ve sold me on them! Thank you. Have you got one yourself? how have you found it? Not sure if there are better ones out there now – if you have any recommendations? And are the Gym pact apps just for America? We are in Australia.

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