Activity trackers came into popularity in the form of pedometers, first mass-produced in Japan by Y. Hatano in 1965. As technology improved, these trackers took different forms, including shoes, armbands, and MP3 players. Many of these early iterations were passive tools–someone might wear a pedometer on days they felt particularly health-conscious.
Now in the era of connectivity and IoT, we often expect our interaction with devices to be a two-way conversation rather than a dictation. That’s why activity trackers are now designed and marketed with the intention of inspiring users rather than waiting for users to get inspired.
This can be seen in the progression of Fitbit’s product line. Fitbit’s original 2009 product was clipped onto waists, but they quickly moved to wristbands 2 years later–users can easily interact with their wrists for inspiration, but not with their waists. While early models simply had displays, more recent Fitbit devices now automatically vibrate periodically throughout the day to remind users to exercise, and vibrate celebratorily when daily goals are met. Fitbit also now sends weekly summary emails to users, trying to inspire through a medium outside the tracker itself.
Without this design transition from passive to active, activity trackers may never have become as mainstream as they are today.