For Christmas last year my wife gave me a thick rubber wristband that looked like the sort of thing you wear to show support for breast cancer research or that you paid to get into a rock concert. Those are usually pink or green. This one, however, is black.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“You wanted a wristwatch,” she said. “This is a wristwatch and more. Look for the button.”
There was a circular place on it, slightly raised, also black, barely distinguishable from the rest of the thing. I pressed it. Inside, under the rubber but visible through it, bright white lights formed into a digital version of the exact time. Five seconds went by and the lights went back out.
“Press it again,” she said.
The second time I pressed it, the lights formed the word FUEL, automatically went dark and then reformed with the number 0, which also, after a moment, also went dark.
“That monitors your exercise workout,” she said. “The more you move it, the more your hear beats, the more steps you take, the higher the number.”
I shook it and pressed it again twice. This time it read “6.”
I have fallen in love with this device. It can’t fall off. It clips on like a bracelet and is a bit loose there, rattling around, but it won’t slip off and it won’t come off until you unclip it and slide it sideways off your wrist. The literature said it was waterproof. Later, I went online and read others noting yes, it’s waterproof, but take it off while swimming or in the shower. Why take the chance?
I have worn this device day and night except when doing the above things, or when I charge it up. You charge it by unclipping it. Where it is unclipped, one end is plastic and rubber, but the other is a metal USB plug. Stick it into the USB port on your computer. There it sits, unclipped, curled over your laptop, recharging its battery. If only I could do that.
This is the new thing. The last new thing, in my opinion, was the iPad. Before that the new thing was the iPhone. And before that was the iPod. This, however, is not an i Anything. Steve Jobs is gone. This is, surprisingly, by Nike. I wondered who would pick up this ball and come up with the next big thing. Here it is. From a shoe company.
And it works for me for at least three reasons. One is, I am ordinarily a lazy slug. The second is, I don’t like wearing wrist watches because wrist watches make you look, in my opinion, as if you are a slave to time. (I used to look at my cellphone when I needed to know the time until this.) And the third reason is, I like what this says to others. What is it? Aren’t those breast-cancer-research bands pink? Those party wristbands orange? Maybe it’s just to help you remember something important. Indeed, it tells you nothing. It’s just a mysterious innocuous piece of jewelry.
I’ve seen recent devices that have tried to marry technology with wearability. But all the others, from Google Glass to Android wrist computers, just make you look like a robot. Do you really want a cellphone screen on your wrist?
They do say clothes make the man. And there’s truth to it. If you’re always in sneakers, you’re probably not a businessman. If you’re wearing black leather-sole shoes all shined up, you probably are.
The other thing that is so neat about this Nike bracelet is that it has gotten me off my butt. This has come about because of what happened when I first plugged it into the USB port to charge it up. On my computer screen, a fresh Nike program automatically opened and gave me all sorts of information and encouragement to walk, run and work out. And it was my own damn fault.
That’s because the first time I started it up, I had to register the bracelet to make it mine. Onscreen, I told it my name and date of birth, and in return the bracelet indicated the average number of points the average person my age earns by being in motion with Nike during one 24-hour period and asked if I wanted to make a goal to exceed it and what would that be? So, for my age group, the average was 2900. I said, okay, I’ll make a goal of 3100. How hard can it be? I typed it in.
I was then congratulated on my choice and moved on to the next screen, where the bracelet entered into the program, in graph form, my total in points so far. On that first day, when I first plugged it in, onscreen, it said it was 90. The graph indicated I had till 11:59 p.m. to get it up to 3100.
“It’s already two in the afternoon,” I silently told my bracelet. “That’s not fair.”
“Too bad,” it replied. “Get on out there.”
So that was Christmas day. Since then, every day, the bracelet congratulates me with a glittery show of confetti and the word GOAL! if I press the button after having passed 3100 (you don’t know if you did or not until you press it) or when I stick it in for recharge and it learns I’ve won, showers me with all kinds of complimentary encouragement. It tells me I won a banner. It shows me the banner. Then it tells me if I do three days in a row above goal, I get a trophy, and when I do that, it shows me the trophy I won. I’ve won many trophies since then. And I have a trophy room I can go to online where I can see them all side-by-side. I’ve also won boxing gloves, banners and a “thumbs up.” Next time I see you, I’ll show you around the room.
And then, if I check my bracelet at 9 p.m. and see I need 250 more points to make goal, I’m out the door taking the dog for a run in the rain. I’ve been known to move crazily about the bedroom for 3101 at 11:58 p.m. if I’m just a few points shy.
And on a day where I’m sick in bed hardly moving, I stare at it.
“Okay, okay,” I say. “Can’t you see I’m sick?”
The bracelet will, if you want, hook you into the Facebook scene and you can solicit encouragement from others, brag about a good day, congratulate your friends when they make goal. Of course, you can lower your goal, but the bracelet knows.
“Hey, that number of 2900 is just the average for those who use these bracelets, not everybody,” I told the bracelet as I struggled on a particular day.
It also tells me how I slept. It starts at midnight. If I wake up and it is 54, I’ve tossed and turned; if it’s 6, I’ve slept like a log.
I have no idea if this “number” is calories burned, heart rate or steps taken, and they don’t tell you. There are several of these bracelets on the market now. All guard their “point” calculations as if they were the secret formula for Coca-Cola. Each claim theirs is more accurate than the others. But only Nike doesn’t make you look like a robot.
This is one of the best presents I’ve ever had.