Motivation to work out can be difficult to come by. This is particularly true for people who are just getting into losing weight or getting fit. Maybe you've had a long day at school or your job. The weather might not be ideal for jogging or walking. Or perhaps you've never established a real habit of exercising each day. It's not difficult to come up with an excuse to avoid working out.
So how can we give ourselves a metaphorical kick in the backside to stay on track? In the last few years, several companies have introduced gadgets designed to get us active. Some provide us chart after chart of data, explaining exactly how many calories we burned versus the number we're consuming. Others pair exercising with music to get us pumped up for that last push. And then there's the Striiv.
The Striiv is a device that's partly a pedometer, partly a mobile gaming device and partly a tool for philanthropy. It adds a layer of gamification -- the integration of game mechanics into something that's not traditionally a game -- to exercising. As you walk, climb stairs or run with the Striiv on your person, you not only burn calories -- you accumulate points.
These points can help set new personal challenges for you to meet and beat. They can also come in handy if you want to play a game on Striiv and use the steps you've taken as a kind of virtual currency. Or you can dedicate your physical efforts to a charity.
The Anatomy of Striiv
The Striiv is a simple device at first glance. It has a 2-inch (about 5 centimeters) screen with a touch interface. There's a power button on one end of the device and two other buttons -- home and back -- beneath the screen. There's also a port for a micro-USB cable. The cable lets you charge the Striiv's lithium-ion battery as well as sync the data from the device to your computer.
On the bottom of the Striiv is a round hole into which you can insert a key-ring attachment. The key ring locks into place with a quick twist. Pressing the ring attachment into Striiv and twisting the other way unlocks it. You can also use a belt-clip attachment if you prefer. Or you can just throw the Striiv into a purse or bag.
Inside the Striiv, there's a 500-megahertz dual-core processor, a solid-state memory chip, an altimeter and a three-axis accelerometer. An accelerometer is a measuring device that detects changes in velocity. If you've taken physics, you know that velocity has two components: speed and direction. An object moving in a specific direction at a particular speed has a steady velocity. If either the direction of movement or the rate of speed changes, the object accelerates or decelerates.
How does the Striiv detect these changes? It uses a solid-state gyroscope and a proprietary technology called TruMotion. A gyroscope contains a tiny weight that shifts slightly as the device experiences changes in acceleration. On either side of this weight are two small plates that have electric potential energy stored in them. We call this capacitance. As the weight moves toward one plate and away from the other, the capacitance of both plates changes -- increasing the gap decreases the plate's capacitance and closing the gap increases the plate's capacitance. The Striiv's processor detects this change and interprets the fluctuations as movement, registering a step. The frequency and intensity of the steps informs the Striiv if you're walking or running.
The altimeter in the Striiv allows it to detect when you're climbing stairs. Altimeters detect changes in elevation by registering changes in barometric pressure. At lower elevations, pressure will be greater -- there's simply more atmosphere pressing down from above. At higher elevations, pressure is lower. You probably wouldn't notice the change in atmospheric pressure you experience while climbing a staircase, but a sensitive altimeter can register subtle changes.
Walking, running and climbing stairs are the Striiv's focus. But perhaps the real story behind the Striiv is how it uses games and altruism to encourage you to exercise.
It's All a Game
The Striiv doesn't just count your steps -- it encourages you to take more of them. It has several incentives designed to turn a couch potato into an active person.
Like several other fitness gadgets, the Striiv keeps track of your activity and lets you know when you've surpassed a previous day's efforts. Each time you climb more stairs, take more steps or stay active longer than you have on any previous day, the Striiv makes a note of it and gives you a virtual trophy. This lets you challenge yourself to beat earlier records.
The Striiv also has challenges built into the device. There are five-minute challenges that relate to the number of steps you've taken, stairs you've climbed, minutes of activity you've engaged in and calories you've burned. Each challenge encourages you to put in five more minutes of effort. You're rewarded with bonus points that you can apply to other features in the Striiv.
You can also navigate to different challenges on the Striiv's main menu. Each challenge screen presents you with tasks that fall into easy, medium and difficult categories. If you don't like what the Striiv has picked out, you can choose to have three new challenges appear. Like the five-minute challenges, these tasks reward you with points if you successfully complete them within the allotted time.
What can you do with the points? The Striiv includes a game called "Myland," which bears a similarity to some games you'll find on social networks. Within "Myland," you use coins and energy to build structures and plants in an effort to bring life to an island. You earn energy through activities. As you build out your island, you'll earn coins, which you can use to buy more items. You can also trade in energy for coins. To advance in the game you have to stay active in real life -- that's how you earn more energy.
You can also put your steps toward helping out a charity. Striiv partners with charitable efforts and other corporations. As you hit certain milestones -- they're different for each charity -- Striiv and its corporate partners donate money to one of the charities they've selected. At launch, those charities included a polio vaccine fund for children in India, a rainforest preservation charity in Tanzania and a clean water campaign for Bolivia.
Here's how it works: The Striiv counts your steps. When you get to a certain number -- for the clean water campaign it's 18,000 steps -- you can connect your Striiv to your computer to synchronize it. Your computer sends the information to Striiv's servers and the charity receives a donation from your efforts. Those 18,000 steps now become a day's worth of clean water for a child in Bolivia.
Striiv doesn't have the same features and specs as other cutting-edge fitness gadgets on the market. But perhaps with its focus on gaming and charitable efforts, it doesn't need them.
I got a chance to play with Striiv at CES 2012. I now own one. I've donated several days' worth of clean water through walking. While I enjoy walking, I must admit that now I feel guilty if I don't rack up at least half the number of steps needed to hit my 18,000 for a charitable donation. Guilt seems to be a powerful motivator for me.
More Great Links
- Apogee Rockets. "How Do Electronic Altimeters Work?" May 24, 2010. (March 4, 2012) http://www.apogeerockets.com/rocketry_videos/rocketry_video_40.asp
- Silicon Designs, Inc. "Technology." (Feb. 24, 2012) http://www.silicondesigns.com/tech.html
- Striiv. "How it Motivates." (March 2, 2012) http://www.striiv.com/products/how-it-works/
- Striiv. "Technical Specifications." (March 2, 2012) http://www.striiv.com/products/technical-specifications/
- Takahashi, Dean. "Striiv says its step-counting gadget inspires people to walk more." Venture Beat. Feb. 22, 2012. (March 4, 2012) http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/22/striiv-says-its-step-counting-gadget-inspires-people-to-walk-more/