Self-Quantification with BodyMedia
food tracking | sleep
Jonny Farringdon, Director of Informatics at BodyMedia, talks about BodyMedia devices and his experience quantifying his own self. In this talk, Jonny goes over many of the things that distinguish Bodymedia from other trackers as well as shows new products that are coming soon.
BodyMedia Boston QS
Why are we interested in doing what we do and I’ll explain. We unlock and decipher body secretes and if you’re a nerd, if you’re a data head or a propeller head - wow! There’s secretes, there’s things to unlock, so that’s interesting. We want to communicate information so if you are into information communication and designing websites, well there is something for you at BodyMedia.
We want people to improve their lives, so if you are into health and want people to live better lives there is a lot of different passions at BodyMedia in lots of different ways can be interested. And of course there is a strange kind of connection then to self-knowledge through numbers. I mean we’re trying to define those numbers and trying to create knowledge. But rather than self-knowledge, mainly at BodyMedia it’s not individual self-knowledge, it’s knowledge on mass on you because we have monitored you.
It’s expert knowledge of the best clinical practice and the best behaviour modification that we tell you what we think is the right thing, because it generalizes a lot of people; so it’s a little different and it’s a little the same.
We think of ourselves as making a dashboard for the body if you didn’t know what we did, and we really try to understand the body. So we make devices that work on the 90th percentile smallest women and the 90th percentile largest man. We studied a lot about the device because you are wearing a skin touching device, and they are very intimate but they mustn’t get in the way; like cats have whiskers so they don’t bump into things, and BodyMedia makes devices that you don’t notice once they are on your body.
So we’re getting to one of the main QS points, which is what do you measure, what do you sense? So we try to measure the body to understand where you could wear a device and monitor things, and then we became to try and be experts in thermal sensing and galvanic thermal response sensing; if you want a sweat meter we’ve got one. And in motion detection and because we know the way you can wear these things and get good readings, that’s why our devices end up on the arm because it’s a happy compromise between all the different things that we want to sense, and where you can wear something that you won’t notice that you’re wearing it.
That’s horse before the cart, and then the other way around we wanted heart rate to a single limb EKG sounds impossible; the textbooks don’t make any sense because that’s one of the leads but it’s not. But that’s one of my greatest contributions to BodyMedia, and 10 years later maybe you’ll see that before the end of the year and I’m very excited about that.
We have an API. It’s completely free, you can just go grab it and that will let you get all your data, and if anybody else gives you permission all their data. So there are hundreds of thousands of users if you get hundreds and thousands of permissions and you can go for it. Or if anybody has a great idea and would just like to pull data into make some of the data acquisitions and the tracking all automated rather than manual, then you’re free to use our API.
So I was asked what is the cool and interesting stuff at MediaBody and that’s kind of easy, difficult, and fun. Sleep is something I work on a lot, and there’s lots of good serious studies about with motion detections you know, wake and sleep and you can get nice predictors of weights and sleep. Shouldn’t be able to get the levels of sleep, so I making models where I am getting the levels of sleep, really nice sleep, but then I have a little advantage with some of the thermal sensors that we have. That’s kind of exciting, and for one person in the sleep lab there’s some numbers that you can monitor.
This was something the Obesity Society asked us to do, where they said the largest study they knew of in sleep, they wanted to understand the relationship between sleep and wake, and they said it was a 700 person self-reporting study where they measured how well they thought they slept and then they took their BMI and they said 7000 and they could have added more zeros. You’ve got to say something every year haven’t you to make the study bigger.
In the end, a little bit less than 7000 because they demanded 23 hour compliance with the device, and something terrible came out. Women get 20 minutes more sleep than men, so nothing we can do about that. You can’t modify your best behaviour to become a woman, but we learnt a lot of other things, really great results and the biggest objectives study that at least for women that losing weight you get more sleep. So it works for men to but not quite as good as result, but it’s good to know it’s there.
And then he is a bigger study them, okay, 97,000 people where we looked at how how long the day is and how much daylight time there is in a day and that changes by many hours from the summer to the winter. And then we looked at 97,000 of our users to see how much sleep they were getting through the seasons.
So this is something we can do because we’ve got lots of people who don’t consider themselves quantified selfers, but they are being quantified because they want to know stuff and we are doing the analysis. And the knowledge through numbers is something we are doing on mass to discover this really great link between how much sleep you get and the seasons.
These are not renderings or mockups, these are real apps we are kind of playing around with. So we know what you’re doing, we know what activities you’re doing. We don’t tell our users that right now but we record it. And we are wondering how we can tell people that and we know really how much REM you are getting at night, and we are just playing around with ideas in how we can communicate that to you.
Orlan, does anyone know Orlan? Orlan is a very great and wonderful lovely French artist, who I think is one of the most ultimate quantified selfers. Because self-expression rather than self-knowledge, but she has defined her body as a unit of measurement, so now she can quantified the world in terms of herself. And she’s been doing this since 1968, and she’s also been modifying her body to match standard units of beauty.
So, she has given herself the chin of Botticelli’s Venus, she’s given herself these lumps on her head to match the Mona Lisa. She goes for a lot of surgery, where she stays awake and talks through what’s happening and how she’s modifying her body.
And so on the left she has measured pretty much every major art gallery in the world in units of herself, and so from toe to head and she moves around, and then she quantifies her body physically and modifies herself and to create something new.
I worked with Orlan last year, absolutely fantastic, so I’m going to quantify her as she quantifies the Warhol Museum. And so she is making these measurements and she has this great animating artist from France, who did the animation so you can watch the exhibit and you see her do it on video. You see this animation of how the musculature is moving, and then you see my rendering of the 3-D motion and the heart rate.
So, that’s the crazy fun stuff we’re doing at BodyMedia, and then we’re measuring her in terms of more standard units than Orlan’s, such as calories and heartbeat. And because we are doing an art piece we’re measuring the energy cost of living in terms of art.
We’ve been involved with the biggest loser pretty much from the beginning, but through a third party so no one ever talks about our product. This year we were very involved very directly. And so because we know what you’re doing and we don’t show this to our customers, but we show it to the trainers because the trainers are there may be an hour a day. So are you really working out the way you said, and are you using the equipment that I told you to. And all equally from the other way around all these people lost 50% of their weight, but they all did it in very different ways. Some people like Jason Dacson loves the elliptical, and Joe hates the elliptical.
There’s lots of different routes to get to where you want to be and healthy, and we’re trying to understand what routes people take that are successful.
The space station, we have that market sewn up because we are the only device up there, and then they rang up and said we need another device, it’s crashed. Okay, we can reboot – no you don’t understand it’s crashed, is out with the trash. And they had put it in the trash and it’s floating around and we had to send another one up there. Imagine sending something up to the space station is not easy.
It took about two years to get the device qualified to go to the space station, so it is a much older device than the ones we sell now, because we don’t want to take another two years to qualify one so it’s up there.
And once a week every month for the next three years one of the astronauts wears it to get long-term notion of how they move and the energy costs of being a space station astronaut.
This is the newest, cool fun thing we are working on and this will be available before the end of the year. This has Bluetooth Internet and it has all the sensors in it that I talked about, galvanic skin response, and motion, and temperature, and heat flux.
This is the nice fashionable one for when you go to the cocktail party. There is also going to be this particular band, which has my heart rate monitoring single limb ECG and it will record heart intervals and QR, magnitude, and QS timings and all sorts of cool stuff; it’s going to be great.
And then of course yeah, exciting news this week is what’s going on at BodyMedia is Jawbone acquired BodyMedia. They have lots of great skill and consumer products, and we have lots of experience in clinical medical devices. Our devices are the only monitors that we FDA regulated. It’s a Class 2 medical device and ISO 1345 in Europe. So, we are the only people that have the clinical backing.
So I’m going to quantify myself now, you know I think I walk around, I sit around a bit, read books, and watch TV and I ran a little and ride a bike, and I think I get a lot of calories from these things. But then what really happens is its three quarters of my day and I’m doing nothing or I’m sleeping or sitting around. But at least when you do go for a walk it’s quite a good payoff from that, it’s quite a lot of calories and it’s really worth doing it.
So this is a day this week, and a day this week a year ago, and because I’m a quantified guy and hey I got four years worth of data, I didn’t mean for obviously I meant five, no six.
So you know, this is when these things came out and maybe for you art maybe programming them and they have got accelerometry and maybe you started monitoring yourself or making little apps that could record, but I didn’t really mean six or seven, I got eight years worth of data, I mean nine. Sorry I mean 10 of course or 11, or actually 12.
So I got a lot of data and this is just one day this week going back every year. And what’s going on, well I used to walk and then I started running so a lot more calories, and this is calories per minute. So it doesn’t matter if I did 10 minutes or an hour, or 10 hours, I’ve normalized it all. So by running it’s worthwhile, and then I gave up and running and started playing tennis. And I enjoyed it more but I don’t burn as many calories, but emotionally I enjoy it more.
On that one day that I sampled in the week maybe I danced a different day. But there was something going on with the dancing is that I used to do socially and then I joined a performance troupe, where we had to rehearse and that is a lot more energetic and a lot more tiring.
And I’m learning thing from my galvanic skin response, and that’s a rehearsal. It’s hot and sweaty and I’m not enjoying it, so what am I learning from my monitoring. All the data is there and I can kind of sit. Skin temperature not much is going on, but I have it all their where I can begin to dig into it and I know it will be there for me.
So we are making this product that you wear and can wear for years. And most of our users wear it for about 11 months roughly. We make the product to well, so we have people five years on and still going strong so that’s testament to how robust things were.
But is the user experience of using it, that was really for you, but for everybody.
So at the BodyMedia there is a website and you can look at your data and graphs, and you can log your food and we’ll tell you what’s in it, and we will show you minute by minute your calorie burn, and measure your exercise. And okay, so you have to use that. No, a thing doesn’t appear in front of you, but if you get your phone out and carry your phone in front of you, you can see where you are at, wherever you happen to be. You know, have you actually done enough to go in the Krispy Kreme and get the doughnut or not.
And so this nice mobile app and we’re giving you lots of information, but is that the experience of using it? Is it self-knowledge through numbers, and the answer I think is actually for us is that it’s not through numbers for you. It can be, and you’re free to do that, but what we do is we also analyze your numbers to. So the people that aren’t QS but come to us can still get the best medically sound national guidelines advise of actionable like what time is it. It’s this time and you go to bed then and you’ve just got enough time to do this right now. This week has been dead, but at the weekend’s you seem to have a bit more time, so over the week here’s what to do. Over the next two months here’s what to do, so we are giving some people actions right now.
So if you don’t want to experiment for a couple of months to see what works for you, but you would like to know nationally what standard is recommended for you then we will go tell you. And because we are a medical device, we’ve got lots of clinical and you are asking if the data can prove to change your behavior.
So the one on the left, and this is a cool story and I’ll tell you. There was a famous academic and he wrote a little pamphlet about how to lose weight, and he gave 100 people his pamphlet. And he gave 100 people the pamphlet and the armband. And then he signed up 100 people to Jenny Craig, and then he signed another hundred up to Jenny Craig and gave them the armband. And in every case everybody lost weight, but if they had the armband they all lost twice as much weight.
So the notion of having a dashboard and some more information in front of you, and some extra information that you can see and read, we have clinical outcome studies.
But for me, this is the user experience. The user experience isn’t using it at the time; it’s the outcome that’s the end. So these are real people who just send in their photos. You know, when you are on the treadmill the experience isn’t a belt that is moving and your hot and sweaty. The experience of using BodyMedia and going through our process is this. And he has Jackson and Danny, Danny who won both big supporters, and we’re watching them through as they are recording the show. And maybe in week five Danny is going to win and we are completely committed through the data.
So that’s where BodyMedia is at. We are doing exciting things and we are making a little disposable kind of stick it on, forget about it for a week, waterproof Band-Aid kind of guy. We’re going to make something beautiful, but in the end we are making product and we’re giving you data, and you can go grab it through the API. The end result is full are that people are healthier and happier and more energetic, and that’s us.