Some of you might know that some guys and I are building a watch to count laps for swimmers (www.lapview.com). Our small team at Lapview spends lots of time thinking about ways to measure information so athletes can improve performance.
Personal metrics makes me think of the android character “Data” from Star Trek (pictured above). Data could sense a person’s blood flow and breathing rate and determine if they were friend or foe. How cool would it be if we knew our bodies that well! For instance, we could provide warnings to ourselves if we were about to ‘make a decision under duress’ or if we showed the vital signs of ‘love at first sight’. Maybe I’m reaching, and maybe I’m not reaching.
Now more than ever before, we have the technology to track many facets of human action:
Notice how many personal metrics we can measure, and how few products there are to measure these metrics. The marketplace is shockingly empty, even though we know that measurement improves performance. We know this because of the so-called Hawthorne Effect.
According to the Hawthorn Effect (or Observer Effect) people change their behavior often for the better when they are being observed. Personal metrics improve performance. YMCA found that their retention rate increased 10% when they recorded their members’ workout data. That is a huge difference in churn.
In summary, the tracking of personal metrics is revectoring technology innovation away from artificial reality and to physiological reality. Reality is more actionable and useful than artificial reality. I am personally very excited to be involved in this marketplace with Lapview.
I was a judge again this year at SJSU’s Neat Ideas Fair. It’s a student innovation contest that is open to the public. Two companies this year addressed a rising trend that I call micro mapping. “Kart Buddy” helps grocery shoppers create a route in the store matching their shopping list and “Airport Buddy” helps travelers navigate airports. I predict this will be huge in 2010.
Micro mapping is like Google maps for indoor or off-road locations.
Eventually you could be guided everywhere we go. As my friend and fellow Neat Ideas Fair judge Paul Fazzone said, ‘these ideas can help customers find stores faster’. This makes these tools highly monetizable, which is good for the entrepreneurs. This is a mobile trend.
Some pioneering micro mapping applications are already available:
Google has selected the final 16 public policy ideas from their big ideas contest. You can see the full range of ideas here. This type of work is important to me because ideas frame our understanding of the world and drive our behaviors.
The ideas that resonated with me are:
encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists (Neal note: ala the Intel commercial)
create a transportation system that enables electric cars to run on a rail-type system (Neal note: imagine the beauty of highways paved in grass with thin rails)
partner with banks and technology companies to increase the reach of financial services across the world (Neal note: ala Paypal)
create an advanced health monitoring system (Neal note: ala Google Health)
Reading this list makes you realize just how phenomenal a company Google is. 22% profit margin allows Google to think big-picture and drive projects that will change the world. Cool. It’s easy to imagine how all these initiatives will help Google’s central mission to “make the world’s information searchable.”
What did not resonate. Bill Gurstelle is a fellow Minnesotan, but a solely different kind of “adventurer”. His book is ostensibly about him blowing things up with gun powder, which isn’t really my style. Not that I’m against detonating inanimate objects, it’s just not a tangible adventure. It’s more impactful (to me) to reflect on climbing Mount Everest, than to ruminate on an exploded grapefruit.
What did resonate. The graph above resonated. Bill coins the “Golden Third” of people as happier because they take risks. He says we live in an age where disruptive ides are critical to our future. Children and adults should have the “license” to invent and to adventure beyond the safety of the envelope, just like the first caveman who overcame the fear of fire.
In my previous blog post I mentioned that runners are more likely to get injured in expensive shoes than in less expensive shoes, and even less likely to get injured running barefoot. Customers are spending money to hurt themselves. This is based on Christopher McDougall’s research in the book Born To Run.
A few of my friends have suggested that people that buy expensive running shoes are more likely to drive themselves harder and get injured. This angle is addressed in the book — Chris talked about casual runners who run three times a week and still get injured in expensive shoes.
So, I still believe that spending money on expensive shoes is a waste of cash. You’re better off making shoes out of 2 liter bottles, as in the picture.