Wearables must get positive if they're going to change our lives

The experts give a thumbs down to nagging technology
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We all want to lead healthier, better lives, and it's with these good intentions that many of us turn to wearable tech.

Beyond step counting and calorie tracking, many of us hope that our tech will help us change the habits of a lifetime: drinking more water, sitting up straighter, going to bed earlier are all common – as are the wearables that nag us to fall in line.

Essential reading: How to use your fitness tracker to get fit

However, the effectiveness of "nag tech" or "nanny gadgets", such as the Lumo Lift and even the Apple Watch with its 45 minute alerts for you to get up and move, has been called into question.

Sophie Kleber, executive director of Huge Inc., an international digital design agency, believes that positive reinforcement, not nagging, is the only way technology will help people achieve their goals.

Wearables must get positive if they're going to change our lives

She took to the stage at SXSW to deliver a speech on The Quantified Self: Real Life Applications, and didn't pull any punches when it came to the current crop of wearables.

"This is the Lumo Lift that you stick on an item of clothing, which vibrates when you start to slouch," she said.

"Why I don't think this works is because it's horrible user experience – it's nagging you constantly, and it bothers you.

"Our technology should be about positive psychology and reinforcing the good things – showing you how to do the good things more often, instead of pushing you away from the bad habits," she continued.

So what's the alternative?

Kleber, whose company has designed experiences and websites for Nike and Lexus, calls for "immediately actionable micro encouragements rather than micro nagging" to help us fall in line.

"Take a deep breath; eat an apple because your blood sugar is low; smile. Those are the types of positive things our wearables should tell us," Kleber said, while showing off mock-ups the kind of life-coaching wearable she'd like to see.

It seems like a logical rethink of the way we use wearables, but it's hard to imagine how a wearable could reward you for anything in a way that's meaningful enough to change our behaviour.

Have you had success using devices that nag you into good behaviour? Or did you slowly start into ignore the demands until resigning them to the bin? Let us know in the comments below.

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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