Having tested a few smart scales in the past, we've become familiar with the process: you set it up, stand on it, a small screen reads out your weight and then that data is synced and stored inside of a companion app.
The folks at Shapa have a very different idea on how scales should operate and also hopes it can go further than churning out data in a bid to help initiate positive changes tapping into what we know about behavioral science to help improve health in the long run.
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Its Android, iOS and Alexa-friendly digital scale for starters doesn't include a display anywhere on the device. Why?
"Sadly, technology had a negative impact on the effectiveness of the scale as a useful tool to manage weight," explains Shapa co-founder Dan Ariely. "Digital scales are giving us feedback at a granularity that is very high."
"Weight naturally fluctuates a lot, from day to day regardless of how much we eat, what diet we have and whether or not we went for a walk, and these fluctuations confuse, demotivate, and frustrate us," says Ariely. "In fact, according to our research 80 percent of people who want to lose weight said that weighing themselves makes them feel bad."
Instead of seeing your weight in number form, Shapa will deliver feedback on your weight using a colour-based scale inside of the app. The idea is is that by taking into account normal, everyday weight fluctuations it can present a more positive and realistic picture of your health by using the average weight of the last three weeks. There's also an AI element to help create a more personalised experience offering recommendations, tips and 'missions' to stay on top of your goals. These missions can range from ditching sugar from your morning coffee to going for a walk with your family after dinner. It's all about small, incremental changes that can pay off in the long run.
Other features include the ability to set profiles for up to seven users if you want your entire family to use it, a vacation mode to pause tracking when you're on holiday and even the ability to start over and reset programs if you haven't used the Shapa for a certain period of time. The scale is also available in a wood look in cherry, oak black and orange colours. So the idea is that you don't just have to plonk it in your bathroom.
Putting the Shapa to the test
We've actually been fortunate enough to get an early look at one of the scales to see what it's made off. As the Shapa team explained, it takes on average 2-3 weeks to calibrate with each user and as we've only put it through its paces for a few days, we are not awash with data just yet. But we have managed to get a sense of what to expect when it lands on your doorstep.
Let's start with the design first though. While this about the same size as your average smart scale, it certainly doesn't look anything like a Fitbit Aria 2 or a Nokia Body. It's round for starters and it does have that wood effect on plastic, which if we're being honest, looks and feels a bit on the cheap side. Especially when you then factor in the metal strips that takes readings on top that in contrast create quite a muddled design. It's an admirable attempt at trying to make these scales feel like they can live outside of the bathroom, but I can't help feeling they'll still stick out like a sore thumb in most living rooms.
Once you've put the four AA batteries into the compartment around the back, it's time to download the Shapa app. What awaits you is a pretty lengthily questionnaire that you need to fill in to help create a more personalised program. These questions range from the kind of standard data most smart scales require like height and weight, but then things get more detailed as you'll be asked how strong you are when it comes refusing things that are bad for you, what kind of foods you currently have at home and what food options are available at work. It feels quite intrusive at first, but there's sense in the questions to get a better sense of how to tailor the program effectively.
Weighing without numbers
Part of this setup process also requires you to commit to stepping on the smart scales twice a day; once in the morning and in the evening before you go to bed. Notifications will serve as reminders to make sure you stick to these times. You can also take measurements at other times, just make sure the app is open on your phone and Bluetooth is switched on to sync the data.
First, you need to calibrate the scale to the app, which didn't work on the first attempt. Stepping onto the scale and ensuring your feet are on top of the long metal strips, the app regularly crashed out during the measurement readings when it had to communicate with the Shapa servers. It did register eventually, but only after multiple attempts. This was unfortunately a regular occurrence over the few days we've had to test it where it struggled to take measurements on the first go. Not a good sign.
What those measurements over time should influence is your Shapa Color, which instead of weight in number form aims to give you a clearer idea of progress. So if you're in the green, then you're doing well. In the grey? Not so much. Another component of the program is something called Missions. These are daily tasks you can opt in to accomplish. So for instance, I was asked to swap sugar for cinnamon in my coffee or to read weight loss success stories online for motivation. Some made more sense than others but this reminds me a lot of what Jawbone offered within is app experience to prompt minor changes in your day. It's certainly a nice addition here and is why Shapa feels more than just simply syncing data for the sake of it.
Checking in on the app
The app (iOS and Android), which we tried out on a Google Pixel 2 XL is really cleanly designed with daily weigh-ins up top, with missions and your Shapa Colour reading further down. It would be nice to have the ability to customise the layout, but ultimately it's easy to get to grips with your data. There's a single dropdown menu up to switch on features like Reminders, Vacation mode and check in on notifications, but it's a really simple experience and that's definitely a big plus for Shapa.
As we've mentioned, we've only had a few days with Shapa and our measurement reading issues made it difficult to get a full sense of what it can offer. Hopefully that's something that can be rectified because there's huge potential here on a weighing experience that looks at alternative ways to motivate.
Getting out of the habit of not seeing numbers when you stare down at the scales will take some getting to use to that's for sure, but Shapa is definitely onto something in terms of creating a device and software that goes beyond simply capturing the data. There's definitely room for something different in smart scales, and Shapa could offer that. As long as it can get its hardware working as it should do.
Price and release date
If you like the sound of the Shapa scale, it's available to buy now from the Shapa website priced at $129. You'll also need to pay for the 12-month subscription program, which costs $9.99 a month. If you buy now up until 31 January, you can pick the scale up for $99 with the subscription knocked down to $7.95 a month.
We'll be continuing to put it to the test over the coming weeks to give you our full verdict on the scale that doesn't do numbers.