Nike+ has launched a wristband with a built-in accelerometer that measures a user's daily activities and gives them virtual rewards in the form of NikeFuel. The more active people are, the more NikeFuel they earn. The real benefit is that more active people should be healthier.
The £139 FuelBand includes an LED dot-matrix display. Nike says: "Four metrics are available: Time, Calories, Steps and NikeFuel. Unlike calorie counts, NikeFuel is a normalized score that awards equal points for the same activity regardless of physical makeup."
Users can decide how much NikeFuel they want to earn per day. A series of 20 LEDs change from red to green as users approach their targets.
At yesterday's New York launch, elite athlete Carmelita Jeter said: "You don't have to be an elite athlete to appreciate how NikeFuel can motivate you. It's an easy way to get credit for activities and compare how you do with others, even if you take part in different sports."
Although this is generally true, Jeter will earn more NikeFuel in her 100m sprints than another sportsman at the launch, cyclist Lance Armstrong. Unless, of course, he's cunning enough to slip the armband around his ankle, instead of his wrist. The system will also not work for swimmers, because it isn't waterproof.
People who want to get fit could achieve many or most of the same benefits by spending about £5 on a pedometer. However, Nike+ gamifies the process by making it more public and more competitive. The wristband connects via a USB port to a PC or Mac and the syncs with the Nike+ workout-tracking website.
The FuelBand is one of a number of health-oriented electronics devices that have started to appear. These include the Fitbit Ultra activity tracker (which does the same job for £79.99), the long-awaited Bais wristband, Jawbone's UP and, of course, Nike's own iPod Sport Kit. With western populations getting older and fatter, this could become a significant part of the electronics industry.
The Nike+ FuelBand will be available in the US on 22 February and in the UK from 1 May.