Tracking Progress — Wearables in Review: Approach

Our Approach

Because a goal of this project was to develop institutional knowledge about the participant-side of research, we recruited our test group from Uncorked Studios itself. Looking for a handful of participants, we sent out a company-wide email, and to our pleasant surprise, we ended up with 14 volunteers — more than half of Uncorked. The make-up of our test group was close to an even split between men and women, and activity level varied widely across the team — from very active to fairly sedentary.

In order to get a broad sense of the health and wellness tracking space we tried to get as many devices as possible. Our final list included seven devices from five manufacturers:

  • Fitbit Force
  • Nike Fuelband
  • Fitbit One
  • Misfit One
  • Jawbone Up
  • Fitbit Flex
  • Withings Pulse

Each of our volunteers was randomly assigned a device to use for the four week test with the only requirement being that they use all of the supported tracking features of their device for the full four weeks. For example, if food logging was supported, they were instructed to log their food as consistently as they could for the duration of the study. If their device tracked sleep, they were asked to wear it to bed each night.

We used Basecamp to record our observations and each member of the team was asked to record their experiences, thoughts, and feelings (and screen shots if possible) as they happened — starting with their unboxing experience and initial impressions. Additionally, the group met as a whole once a week for a recorded group discussion.

The four weeks of research were split into four phases:

Initial unboxing experience
What we did:

Participants were asked to write down their initial impressions during the unboxing and setup process for their device.

Why we did it:

To capture the first impressions that participants experience when setting up devices and software.

Weeks 1 and 2: Unguided
What we did:

Participants were instructed to use all available functionality of their device. Beyond that they were free to go about their daily lives as they wished.

Why we did it:

The goal of this was to understand the extent to which a device would impact a persons day-to-day life after the initial excitement of the first couple days wore off.

Week 3: Individual competition
What we did:

Four concurrent competitions were set up. Participants could do as many or as few as they wanted and small prizes were awarded to the winner of each. To manage for device feature differences, all competitions were step-based, a metric common to all of our test devices.

Why we did it:

To understand how specific goals, incentives, and competition affected behavior.

Week 4: Group competition
What we did:

Participants were put into four teams. We attempted to balance each team based on the performance of participants over the previous 3 weeks.

Why we did it:

To look at how group dynamics affected behavior.


Device feature overview



Nike uses a single unit of measure across all their fitness devices — NikeFuel — measured in the form of points which are earned for any type of activity the completed over the course of a day. The FuelBand allows users to set a NikeFuel daily goal and bases success on the percentage of that goal they meet each day.


The UP band allows users to set goals for number of steps taken and hours slept each day. Each time a user syncs their band the mobile UP app displays their current percentage of their daily goal. The UP app also allows users to logtheir food and track their mood, though it doesn’t offer any explicit goals for either of these.


The Pulse offers only a preset goal of 10,000 steps and 8 hours of sleep, neither of which is customizable by the users. Success is based on the percentage of each of these achieved each day.


Each Fitbit device has multiple, though related, default goals of 10,000 steps, 5 miles traveled, ~2000 calories burned, 30 minutes of activity, and 10 floors climbed. Each of these is customizable by the user. The “calories burned” metric is dynamically set based on a user-defined weight loss goal and daily activity.


The Shine uses a point system and provides a default activity goal of 700 points, which is customizable by the user. While the Shine does track sleep, there is no specific sleep goal related to it. When reviewing or modifying the activity goal, users are shown the approximate duration of different physical activities — walking, running, swimming — required to meet that goal. Success is measured based on the percent of a user's point goal met each day.

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