For this post, I am going to use a strange phrase that I hope never escapes the dark, twisted confines of this blog: healthnology. It’s an odd and extremely unwieldy way to describe a future of technology that is aimed towards improving our health.
The healthnological revolution, as I will dub it (trust me, I know it’s stupid), describes the way in which both consumers and manufacturers have become increasingly attracted towards making health an important and attractive part of their lifestyles. It’s not exactly a secret that America has a high obesity rate and that, with the bevy of fast food restaurants at our disposal, we tend to eat extremely unhealthily (but we’re not the worst). Which is why current technology and even future technology is aiming to (ideally) curb those unhealthy habits, and create a fitter, and maybe even happier America. And how does this revolution intend to do that? By making fitness a part of your everyday life and, even more importantly, by making it fun.
This is already something that has quickly manifested itself within such household staples as the Nintendo Wii. When the Wii was first released, it was seen as a gaming console that made physically interacting with your system (as opposed to simply pressing buttons) simple and fun. Games that utilized the controller to its fullest extent could be quite an upper body workout when all was said and done (I recall a few). Unfortunately, for many, swinging the controller in order to play the Wii’s games was simply tedious and unrewarding, and sometimes led to players sitting on a couch, expending the least amount of energy possible for a similar effect in game.
Then came the Wii Fit, which, for most intents and purposes, brought fun back into the living room fitness arena. The Wii Fit, which is essentially a wireless bathroom scale that hooks up to the Wii, allows users to engage in a variety of fun but often challenging exercises and games. Those games range from simple Yoga stretches, to challenging virtual gauntlets that task the user with running in place, ducking and jumping in order to avoid obstacles and complete a course.
Still, there’s a problem with the Wii Fit: People have to go out of their way to use it. Sure, staying in shape is never easy, and the Wii Fit has made it attractive by making it fun, or entertaining at the least. But when the Wii is turned off, its connection with the user is broken entirely. Basically, the world of Wii fitness and the world of the user are two completely different realities that connect for brief half-hour periods a day. That’s it. And frankly, that’s not enough.
Most people need to be reminded or motivated to eat healthy and to exercise. That’s where I feel that the future of health-inducing technology is headed. Even now, the company Jawbone, best known for their sleek bluetooth headsets, is planning on rolling out their new health tracking wristband later this year. Up, as the product is called, will track your sleep patterns, as well as your eating and exercise habits, among others, and will always be a constant reminder and motivator of the importance of eating healthy and exercising. Attached to your wrist, it will be hard to ignore that little blue band when it’s consistently keeping track of your daily eating habits habits.
But these are just the first steps. Exercising and staying healthy ultimately need to be made into a real life game in order to make it truly attractive to everyone. Nike has begun experimenting with this, to a degree. Much like social media and the work place have become increasingly gamified, the healthological revolution is most likely headed in that direction as well.
Sure, food will undoubtedly become more and more healthy, and exercise will become less and less painful as the world matures and technology advances. That’s inevitable. Even so, it won’t become an inherent part of our lifestyles until it also becomes a fun and engaging part of that lifestyle, too.
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