Steps, sounds and (interactive) stories. Three digital habits I’ve picked up.

Posted on 27/02/2015

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(You rarely notice change before it has happened. On those odd occasions that you do, remember it. Write it down, capture it, talk about it. The moment won’t hang around for long.)

I’ve been absorbed by three things over the past few weeks. None of them are new, but all of a sudden I seem to be spending more time on all of them. I figured I’d share my latest obsessions:

Fitbit-charge-hr

FitBit Charge HR

I recently graduated from the FitBit Flex to this new bad boy, featuring a heart rate tracker and a couple of other new dimensions. So far, I’m pretty satisfied.

A lot of people can’t understand the point of fitness trackers and how they fit into your daily life. I can imagine why: if you’re not that interested in changing your activity levels, there’s really no point wearing one. Likewise, it’s a busy market and Fitbit trackers aren’t the most accurate or the cheapest.

But the Charge HR has made a difference, turning me into more of a quantified-self zealot. There are a couple of reasons:

  1. Greater visibility. With a build in screen (not just LEDs), I’ve got instant access to how my day’s going. Not only that, but I can track exercise at the press (and hold) of a button, and check the time. I don’t have to check my stats via a phone or synchronise continually to see how I’m doing.
  2. New dimensions. As well as steps, estimated distance and hours slept I’ve got an idea of both my heart rate and floors climbed. This gives me a couple of new goals to work towards.

Of course, I know FitBit’s are far from accurate, but as long as they’re consistent I can focus on sustaining or beating my previous performance.

There are constant discussions about the future of wearables – and it’s fair to say there’s both a lot of hype and potential. What I’ve started to understand a bit better is the adoption cycle: both what makes them immediately useful to people and the transition from one device to another.

gimlet-on-blue

Podcasts

Even older than the Fitbit but pretty neglected until recently, I’m listening to more podcasts and podcast hours than ever before. Partly it’s because I now walk an extra 15 minutes into work (thanks, TFL station closure). But it’s not just that – it’s easier to listen, thanks to the Pocket Casts app and a Chromecast. I’ve also found some excellent audio-only shows.

Nope, not Serial. I tried it, but honestly couldn’t get into it. I’m not sure I had the patience for the hour long shows and constant recovering of old ground.

Instead, it’s the a16z podcast I’m hooked on. Run by the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm, these are seriously intelligent interviews and discussions around technology, media and business. Couldn’t recommend more highly.

Of course, there are other shows too. What has surprised me is the accelerated growth of these over the recent months – there are more shows appearing, and, seemingly, more people listening.

That’s what I find so interesting – that this is a small, established media format that’s experiencing a surge. It’s been fascinating to follow the growth of Gimlet Media through the StartUp podcast. As a company who want to make podcasts, they’ve not only been building a business model for audible content, but also exploring how we might consume and create audio content in the near future. (Future blog post coming on this…).

Interactive stories

There is something incredible lurking somewhere between apps, games and stories. I’ve been geeking out over several of these of late:

Massively

Storytelling scenarios, delivered as if via SMS / a chat app. Odd, and pretty compelling.

massively-app-storytelling

Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf

Essentially, a choose your own adventure novel adapted beautifully for the iPad.
 Lone-Wolf-Blood-on-the-Snow-sample-6-549x450

The Walking Dead by Telltale Games

Graphic novel / TV series developed into a touch screen role playing adventure. Frightening and incredibly human at the same time.
 -the-walking-dead-game_DoorBreach

Device6 by Simogo

Scroll, interact and rotate your screen as this novel-like adventure winds its way through a surreal world.
device_6_game-screen01

Lifesaver by Unit 9

Hyper-realistic iPad app, challenges you to save lives and learn CPR.
unit9-lifesaver-game

None of these are exactly identical, which is why they’re difficult to describe. Essentially delivering narrative experiences which allow / request / require people to play along, making decisions as they go. It’s not about the end format – it’s about how you feel and what you think when you leave those experiences.

That’s all three. I’m no futurist, but I’m certain we’ll be seeing more of these. There are some interesting things afoot…

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