The Nike+ FuelBand has appeared on my radar several times from several sources over the past few weeks. In each case, this high-tech exercise-tracking wristband has so inspired the people who use it that they're inventing their own games to play with it. If that's not an engaging user experience, I don't know what is.
If you haven't seen it, the FuelBand looks like a black rubberized bracelet when it’s off, but turn it on and it transforms into a pedometer on steroids, tracking standard stuff like steps, calories and the time, as well as letting the wearer set daily goals and tracking how much ‘fuel’ you’ve earned for the day ('fuel' is a Nike-created measurement based on the amount of oxygen taken in per day). The device connects wirelessly to a mobile app, allowing you to have access to your stats whenever the mood strikes, and offers some basic information sharing with friends. At $150 a pop, these bands are a little on the pricey side, reserved for those with a certain level of disposable income. That hasn’t stopped people from going out in droves and buying them - this must-have device is sold out online and the NikeTown in Manhattan is delving them out daily on a limited basis.
An interesting side effect to this tracking device is, not only does it let you turn your day-to-day activities into sharable information, with some very light game-like or competitive elements, but it also has inspired wearers to create their own games in the form of competition that happens while standing around the watercooler.
I witnessed a handful of coworkers comparing the amount of Fuel they had accumulated for the day and deciding to meet up after lunch to compare stats again. In other NYC offices, I've spoken to people who are setting up their own challenges among coworkers, tying into natural workplace competition and general bragging rights.
It would be interesting, in fact, if the Nike FuelBand eventually allowed people to issue challenges to a group of friends, and then offer some type of real-life reward for the winner. Virgin HealthMiles, for example, does this now -- with a junky pedometer rather than a high-tech wristband -- and the winner gets points, which eventually translates into real-life cash.
Nike continues to lead the way in hot high-tech hardware for motivating people to improve their health, but the entire Nike+ platform could really use a much more game-centric approach. But if the FuelBand continues to build its cult status, either Nike, or someone else, will surely build it.