Beyond Bodies

Fuel for the future

Nike launches new FuelBand digital wristband to make every movement count

January 19, 2012

As if shoes, apparel and equipment weren’t enough, Nike had to go on and create its own “fuel” now too. It’s probably not quite what you’re imagining — you don’t eat it or put it in your car — you simply wear it on your wrist. At all times.

Nike unveiled the first product from its much-anticipated “Make It Count” digital sport campaign, the Nike+ FuelBand, at a presentation in New York City today. The band is the latest in a slew of new health tracking devices released just in time for all those fading New Years’ resolutions. For data fiends that love the sleek style of Nike, this might be the greatest thing that’s ever happened.

The FuelBand is worn like a bracelet and measures steps, calories, time and the new trademark NikeFuel — a measurement of anything that “counts” — whether that is running or dancing or playing “beer pong against Betty White,” as event host Jimmy Fallon so eloquently put it.

The band allows you to set a target goal of how active you want to be, and the amount of “fuel” that this corresponds to. A series of 20 LED lights move from red to yellow to green as the user moves closer to their fuel goal each day. The band has a built-in USB port and also syncs wirelessly through a free mobile app, allowing users to track and record their progress.

Details about the specific science behind the NikeFuel are pretty vague, other than it uses a “sport-tested accelerometer” to track movement and translate this into a fuel score.  I’ll assume that the technology behind the band isn’t revolutionary (until I read otherwise), but what is unique about the band is its ability to create a common language — this NikeFuel — for very different types of activity. How does dancing in your underwear compare to playing a soccer game?

Nike made the band more than just a data-tracker; it’s a motivational tool and a game. Looking down at that bracelet and seeing red is a challenge to get up and move – to get the lights to be yellow or green. The band also integrates with several social media platforms such as Facebook, Foursquare and Path, providing further inspiration/peer pressure (depending on how you see things) to a) team up with friends for workouts or b) not back out of reaching set targets when you know your friends are watching.

Awhile back I wrote about Restwise, another sports performance software that uses a series of fatigue indicators to generate a daily score. The FuelBand is very similar, latching on to this idea of quantified training. But Nike took it a step further by quantifying EVERYTHING — I guess there really is no limit to how much information people want these days.

Jawbone released a similar product back in November, the UP bracelet, which also tracked exercise, steps, etc. but its niche was it’s ability to monitor your sleep. Allegedly the bracelet would vibrate during that period of time in the morning when you’re sort of half awake (a period of REM sleep) but most reviewers said the bracelet merely vibrated 30 minutes before their alarm, regardless.

We’ll see if the Nike+ FuelBand lives up to all the hype it created. Hopefully I can get my hands on one and test it out like I did with the Restwise. Limited quantities are available for pre-order today for $149, but the band will be sold exclusively to NikeTown New York in March and worldwide come May 5.

About the Author

Allison T. McCann

Allison T. McCann has a B.S. in science, technology and society from Stanford University, an interdisciplinary major that sparked an interest in all things that swipe, zoom, beep, fly or otherwise involve cool technology. How does that work? is the eternal question that lingers in her thoughts during long runs along the Hudson. A born and raised California girl, she’s a bit nervous about the New York winters, but is very excited to continue writing about science and technology at SHERP. Follow her on Twitter.


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