Sqords aren’t pedometers, which merely measure steps. They’re accelerometers, the same kind of gizmo behind the Nike + FuelBand, Jawbone Up, Fitbit and other products marketed to adults as a way to keep tabs on overall physical activity. Although the grown-up gadgets tend to emphasize data, especially the number of calories burned, Sqord is focused on winning medals, competing with pals and sending positive messages through your “PowerMe” avatar.
“We’re big into getting kids moving and keeping them moving through their whole lives,” says P.E. teacher Mike Humphreys, who launched the school’s Sqord pilot program two months ago, starting with the fifth-graders and a handful of teachers. It’ll soon expand to more staff and students, including the eager fourth-graders who’ve been banging on Humphreys’s office door every day begging for news.
So far, so good — for the most part. Some students were a little too energetic at first, trying to score extra points when they should have been paying attention in class. Now they’ve figured out other ways to boost their totals. “I’ve been told I move when I sleep, so I wear it to bed,” 10-year-old Mauricio Zeballos told me during P.E. last week, just before Humphreys asked the class whether they had any feedback.
Every hand in the room shot up. They want to be able to wear it different ways (not just on their wrists). They want the devices to be more interactive. They want the Web portal to have more ways to communicate with friends.
If it weren’t for the fact that one of those raised hands was a request to be excused to use the bathroom, I might have forgotten this was a room full of tweens. The issues they raised are the exact same ones that are shaping the adult activity tracking market.
Take, for instance, the wristband issue. The bands are typically made of plastic and rubber, which clash with business or formal attire. That’s why Sonny Vu, co-founder and chief executive of Misfit Wearables, is optimistic about its tracker that comes out this spring. The Shine ($99), which is the size of a stack of two quarters, is metal and can be worn on a wristband, a necklace or a clasp (that you can attach to a shoe, bra or pants).
“I don’t really know whether self-tracking is all that natural of a thing to do,” says Vu, who predicts that devices won’t stick around unless they’re easy to use and offer something extra. The benefit of the Shine? “Beauty. Our internal design principle is you’d wear it even if it was broken.”