With two months of summer to go, how are you staying motivated to keep active and live healthy? Fitbit is here to keep you moving, whether you’re curious about how to burn off a 150-calorie twinkie, looking for tips to help you reach 10k steps a day, or are curious about how the Fitbit staff stays active! And that’s not all – we’ll have plenty more tips, tricks, and news as summer continues.
But it’s not just about us; we want to hear about how you’re keeping healthy this summer too! Just use #FitbitSummer on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to share, or click through any of those links to see what others are saying.
- Having a workout buddy can help keep you accountable for maintaining your exercise regime
- If you’re only a few steps behind a Fitbit friend, you’re more likely to push yourself further for the friendly competition
- Fitness friends understand your goals, and encourage you to stick to them
- Some workouts, like zumba or yoga, can be more fun when you bring a friend along
- Going on walks can be a great way to catch up with friends
Also keep an eye on our blog for more fitness tips and announcements, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest news.
We’re happy to announce that we now support Bluetooth 4.0 syncing to the Samsung Galaxy S4! Our team has been working hard to make this a reality after the recent release of the S4. Many of our users have already been requesting we try and work with this phone, and we’re excited to add it to our supported devices.
Every new phone we add Bluetooth 4.0 sync support for requires custom development. While many of the new phones coming out have Bluetooth 4.0 hardware, many of them don’t have the necessary software for third party apps (like ours) to access this hardware. Google recently announced that they will be standardizing support for Bluetooth 4.0 in an upcoming Android OS, which will allow us to sync to Android phones with Bluetooth 4.0 more easily in the future. We’re continuing to work with phone manufacturers and with Google to try and get sync support for additional devices.
You can learn more about the Fitbit Android device support from our original Android blog post.
Each month all San Francisco Fitbit employees are invited to join in a hack night project. This casual event is an opportunity for employees to tinker and participate in various fun projects. The first few hack nights focused on learning to solder using various kits from Adafruit and Sparkfun — some favorites were TV-B-Gone, MiniPOV and Electronic Dice. In another other hack night we added physical feedback to our automated build system. In the case of a failed build a robot voice speaks the engineer’s name and blinky lights are fired off.
Our most recent project was a pair of office thermometers that graph real-time temperature readings using an online data graphing service called Cosm. Indoor office temperature tends to fluctuate throughout the day. Many employees are quite vocal (even dramatic) about their temperature experience, “My blood is boiling, I’m a goner for sure” or “Brrrr, I can’t type, I’m shivering too much”. Temperatures In the mid 70s °F seem to please the most people most of the time.
To get a bit of objectivity on the temperature discussion we decided to provide a reference for each of our two San Francisco locations by having real-time temperature readings posted to a place everyone can see, a web page. If you’re interested in trying something like this yourself, just keep reading.
Geek alert: the rest of the article gets more into the nitty gritty details of this project.
The project parts list:
- Analog Temperature sensor (TMP36)
- Electric Imp + April prototyping board
- USB cable A/MiniB (you probably have this)
note: all parts available from adafruit.com for ~$50
The two main components of this project are:
- get a continuos stream of temperature readings from the temp sensor
- send that stream wirelessly to the Cosm internet service via Electric Imp
(the small black nub in the picture above is the temp sensor)
The temp sensor utilizes 3V provided from April board and has an analog data pin that streams a voltage reading proportional to the temperature. Temp °C = 100 * (reading in V) – 50.
The Electric Imp quickly and easily pairs with your wi-fi network. Then you are linked to their cloud servers where the code that runs on the Imp is stored and edited via their online IDE. They have a nifty way to pair networks via an iPhone/Android app that simply translates your SSID/password into black/white flickering read by a photo sensor on the Imp. They call it the blink up process.
Once the Electric Imp is paired to your network and the breadboard wires are connected correctly, all that is left is to program the Imp in the planner IDE. Some pre-configured ‘nodes’ are provided in the planner IDE. One of these ‘nodes’ happens to be Cosm which made this project much easier to finish.
If you are ready to make this project, visit my post on the Electric Imp Forum. More details and complete instructions can be found on that post.
Here at Fitbit, we’re constantly inspired by the passion, enthusiasm, stories and advice from our users. Whether you’re emailing us progress updates, telling your friends about us on Facebook, or putting together your own step competitions with friends, our users are always impressing us with both their commitment to getting or staying healthy, and their desire to help their friends and family do the same. It’s wonderful to have this common shared belief with you — that small everyday changes can be fun and will add up to big results. And we believe, together, we can bring this belief to more people — and change how many people view fitness today.
For nearly a year, we’ve been experimenting with different tactics to help support and reward the efforts of those who are living examples of our mission to help make the world a healthier place, one step at a time. We’ve created the Fitbit Tell-a-Friend program, created a wide affiliate network, shared insider information, gathered customer stories, promoted your stories to others. Now we would love to open our ambassador program to all of you. As a Fitbit ambassador, you’ll be invited into a new community of Fitbit users whose goal is to share, inspire, and motivate people to be more fit — in a smart, fun, realistic and (Fitbit) way. Additionally, as an ambassador you’ll get insider access to Fitbit news, get to share your Fitbit story, and earn special rewards from us at Fitbit.
We’re still fine-tuning and growing this beta program, but by joining now you can help develop our community and determine its future! If you’re interested, you can apply by filling out this survey. We’ll be in touch with more information about joining to those who do! And we look forward to hearing more of your stories on Facebook and Twitter. Happy stepping!
We’re excited to announce that wireless syncing with Android has arrived! Our free Fitbit App for Android now syncs your Fitbit One and Zip stats directly to the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Note II. With our app, you can sync your stats wirelessly (beta) and see how you are tracking against your daily goals, with friends, and against historic averages. You can download the app from Google Play today!
We know how important it is for our customers to get real-time access to their stats. Those who’ve been able to take advantage of wireless background syncing already have been telling us how they’ve worked to get their extra steps in after receiving notifications that they’re close to their goal, or how they find motivation from the instant feedback right on their Dashboard. We are very excited to bring this feature to our Android users!
We began working on the wireless sync for Android and iOS at around the same time. It took us much longer to get this working on Android phones than it did with iOS, and we appreciate our Android users’ patience in the meantime. We know many of you may be curious about the development of this feature, and we’d like to share some insight into some of the challenges we’ve encountered and what they’ve taught us in the process.
- Currently, the Android OS does not provide apps with access to the Bluetooth 4.0 chips in newer phones. To work around this, some phones instead have custom software that provides access to Bluetooth 4.0. Since this software is different for each phone, our team has worked on developing a solution for each phone independently.
- Fitbit is among the first to try and use the Bluetooth 4.0 in Android phones, and part of being the first means we got to help find and document any problems with the software. We also spent quite a bit of time piecing together how the software works, since it previously hadn’t been well-documented. For many of the problems we encountered, we were able to create our own work-arounds. For others, we coordinated with phone manufacturers and carriers to get more permanent fixes in place.
- For phones we have yet to introduce syncing capabilities with, we’re working with phone manufacturers to see which phones will allow our app to work with their Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities. This process involves us individually checking each model of phone. There may be better support for third-party apps to access Bluetooth in the future, and once this is available we will be able to easily support all phones with this update.
We’ve been working hard to improve the wireless sync experience, but the feature is still in beta. Syncing your stats will typically take about 30 seconds. In some cases, especially where there are issues with network connection, it may take longer. We’re working hard to provide the best user experience possible, so improved syncing speed is just one thing you can look forward to seeing in future updates of our Android app.
Fitbit is dedicated to making connected devices that fit seamlessly into your everyday life, and we fully believe that incorporating Android phones in all of our future efforts is a huge part of that. We truly appreciate our Android users’ patience as we continue to work on supporting additional mobile devices. We’re closely collaborating with phone carriers and handset manufacturers to try to support more phones. There’s a number of phones we’re actively working on, but we don’t yet have an ETA on when we might be able to release updates to include them. For now, you can see a list of all of the supported devices here. If your device is not on that list, we encourage you to contact your phone carrier to ask that they work to build out further Bluetooth support. Your feedback could help us speed this process along!
Happy syncing and logging — wherever you go!
–The Fitbit team
We are so thrilled to be announcing Fitbit Flex to everyone. For many years, we managed to keep our research team very busy developing the technology to make Flex, our first wristband product, work the way we want it to work. We wanted to make sure we captured actual steps taken without capturing “steps” from everyday hand motions, like typing, gesturing, or even eating.
One big challenge we faced was that while we managed to not calculate steps from these sitting activities (eating), and avoid steps from driving, we wanted to capture steps when you’re walking but your hands are held still. When would this happen? Well, walking with a stroller of course! It’s actually a common complaint among wrist tracker users. To determine the right algorithms to sense and capture these steps required lots of development and testing. If you have been near our office in San Francisco, you would have seen many researchers running up and down the street with strollers, wired with all these gadgets to see how we can capture those movements.
Additionally, we waited until now to launch a wristband because we wanted to be able to offer wireless syncing with Android phones as well as iPhones, iPads, and iPods with Bluetooth 4.0. We’re very excited to announce that our products will start syncing with the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Samsung Note 2 in late January/early February, and more devices will follow soon! Viva la mobile!
New Year’s resolutions are practically made to be broken. How often have we made a promise to ourselves to get fit, lose a lot of weight, eat healthy, or some other grand task to be completed in 365 days’ time, only to break it within the first 30 days? Avoid the disappointment, and see how easy it is to stick to your resolutions (and achieve these big results) with just a few tips from Fitbit.
1. Focus on everyday changes
To avoid disappointment, experts say we should make small, daily changes that are easy for us to incorporate every day. We at Fitbit believe wholeheartedly in that philosophy! Little daily changes, like walking around the block at lunch or parking in the farthest spot in the lot, can add up to something big. To help you see how these little daily changes add up, our Fitbit trackers track every step you do 24 hours a day. By seeing how much they move (in real time), our users say they walk 40% more each day to hit the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Which, when you add it up over the course of a year, is over 500 miles! That’s basically like walking the distance around the Serengeti.
2. See the Big Picture
Experts advise that we’re far more likely to reach our goals if we can see the big picture; and we’re much less likely to not get disappointed (and throw in the towel) when we hit a bump in the road. With all our Fitbit devices, you can see how well you have been doing this past week, month, or even year. Your data syncs automatically to your online and mobile account, so you can see your progress and trends with a click of a button.
3. Have Fun
Resolutions tend to fall to the wayside when it feels like work. Fitbit keeps you motivated each day with fun things to keep you active. You can earn fitness badges and join in healthy competitions with friends and family to see who walks more. Fitbit will send you weekly reports to celebrate your progress or cheer you on to keep you motivated. And with the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi scale, there is no need to fear the numbers. Because it tracks weight, BMI, and % body fat trends over time, you will always know where you stand (pardon the pun).
Know someone who might be interested in a healthy 2013? Tell them about Fitbit Zip, Fitbit One, and our Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. Interested in learning more about the products? Check us out on Fitbit.com. Interested in giveaways/meeting other Fitbit Fans, join us on Facebook or Twitter.
In our last blog post, we showed that you could read President Obama’s and Mr. Romney’s heart rate right off of their faces during their first presidential debate. We got a lot of questions asking us to explain the technology behind it a little more, and we’re eager to show other ways it can be used. It turns out that this works with all sorts of video, including our favorite Hollywood movies. To demonstrate this technology to you a little further, today we’ll be looking at Robert De Niro during his seminal “You talkin’ to me?” scene in Taxi Driver (1976).
First, how does this work? The basic idea is that the color of your face fluctuates slightly as blood perfusion under the skin changes from your heart’s pumping. If you measure the color change, you can measure heart rate. It sounds simple, but it’s not. One thing that makes this difficult is user motion: if the person being measured moves, it becomes difficult to disentangle cardiac-induced color changes from changes in lighting conditions on the face, rotations of the face, etc. But in some cases, we’re actually able to filter out some of this motion. Pretty cool, right?
Now let’s walk through the scene as a way to show how this technique works. Fig. 1 (below) depicts the motion of Mr. De Niro during the performance. Big spikes indicate lots of motion and flat, low regions indicate periods of relative stillness. We see that the sequence where Mr. De Niro says,“You make the move,” is the most still period. It’s about 15 seconds prior to “You talkin’ to me?”, but it’s a good starting point to try this.
There’s still motion during this sequence, so to get rid of it, we’ll do a simple feature tracking on Mr. De Niro’s face, as shown in the movie below.
Now taking that patch of skin and analyzing its color changes, we can derive the cardiac signal for Mr. De Niro and get his heart rate. Fig. 2 shows a nice sequence (below). In this chart, you can see the color intensity swing up and down in a visible pattern that corresponds to specific heart beats. The rest is just arithmetic to figure out the rate at which the heart is beating. Mr. De Niro’s heart rate for this scene: 95 bpm! The average heart rate for adults falls more around 72 bpm. Since Mr. De Niro was in his early 30′s at the time of the movie and seems to be in good shape, his heart rate was probably slightly elevated, which isn’t suprising since it was a pretty exciting moment in the movie where he pulls out a gun with a crazy mechanical contraption. Or maybe Mr. De Niro did jumping jacks right before the scene?
Now that we’ve cut our teeth on the easy part, let’s see if we can find Mr. De Niro’s heart rate during the epic, zeitgeist-defining moment of truth. This movie shows the “You talkin’ to me?” sequence with the feature tracker going to filter out motion.
Notice that there’s significant motion throughout, but there is one sweet spot when things are still. Fig. 3 below shows the corresponding cardiac signal during that interval with beats overlaid. The answer: 79 bpm!
Did Robert De Niro know that he would change popular culture permanently with a single line? …Ultimately, we don’t know. What we do know is that his heart rate was a little elevated, so he was at least probably excited about his work. Check out the scene in its entirety below. Warning: there is some profanity in this clip!
There’s a lot that could be done with this technology in the long run, from tracking the heart rates of our nation’s leaders to tracking your friends’ or your own heart rate during a video chat. It could be really interesting to see how heart rate changes when you’re interrupted by your boss or coworkers at the office. Of course, some care still needs to be taken with video compression, optical and digital filtering, motion, and the like – all of which interferes with the cardiac signal. Nevertheless, it’s still a lot of fun to think about.
Finally, some caveats: this should not be taken as a rigorous scientific work, but more as a fun show-and-tell prototyping project. There may be confounding factors in this analysis that have not been investigated in detail. If you can think of them or have any additional thoughts or comments, we’d enjoy hearing them all.
After last night’s presidential debate, the nagging question seems to be “who won: President Obama or Governor Romney?” It’s a subjective, squishy question that can only be made somewhat quantitative by polling a lot of people on how they felt about the debate. But what if, instead, you could get some objective measurements on the candidates themselves? What if you could get insight into their mental state while they debated? That would be cool… and it’s the object of today’s Fitbit blog post.
You can tell a lot from a person’s face. A person smiles, they’re happy (usually); a person frowns, they’re not. That’s the easy stuff. Believe it or not, you can go much deeper. Did you know that you can actually measure a person’s heart rate from his or her face? Really. And from someone’s heart rate, there are various inferences that we can make: such as if they’re stressed, or even lying.
Once we figured out that this was possible, our first thought was, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use this to measure the stress levels of our nation’s leaders? Say, for example, during the next presidential debate?” Last night, under the bright lights of the presidential debate stage, that’s exactly what Fitbit Labs did. Just by looking at their faces.
In the above images, a faint blue box shows the area we’re focusing on for our results. It’s pretty cool: using a regular video camera and some advanced computer algorithms, it’s possible to observe small color changes on someone’s skin as his or her heart pumps. It’s very much like checking for someone’s pulse by touching his wrist, except in this case the “pulses” are color fluctuations in the face coming from blood volume changes under the skin. In order for this technique to work, the person shouldn’t move too much or the motion ends up interfering with the very subtle colors that you’re trying to measure. And forget about fancy camera panning like you see used in movies for dramatic effect.
Of course, “normal” heart rates vary from person to person a lot as well. Luckily, in the US we actually publish our leaders’ physicals for the public to see, so we know what each candidate’s heart rate was starting off.
During Gov. Romney’s opening remarks, he stayed still for a few seconds and we saw that his heart rate was 73 bpm, or a 83% elevation above his resting heart rate of 40 bpm. Not bad. President Obama’s rebuttal a few minutes later came up at 96 bpm, or a 43% elevation above his resting heart rate of 67 bpm. Even though Romney’s heart rate was lower in the beginning, compared to his resting heart rate he was more worked up right from the start.
Now here’s a breakdown of the results across the debate:
- Romney’s opening argument: 73 bpm (+83%)
- Obama’s rebuttal: 96 bpm (+43%)
- Obama’s closing speech: 59 bpm (-12%)
- Romney’s closing speech: 75 bpm (+88%)
What does this mean? Let’s walk through the debate.
There’s actually a number of different inferences you can make from the data we found. A person’s heart rate naturally accelerates during times of stress — such as a crucial debate being televised to millions of people that decide who will run the entire country. We could look at an elevated heart rate as a measure of nervousness. In that case, we would infer that President Obama was more nervous towards the beginning of the debate, but proved to be one cool cat as the pressure mounted towards the end. In this line of reasoning, Romney, was steadily nervous throughout – and to a higher degree than Obama was. But in this case, we’re making the assumption that the elevated heart rate is related to stress, when that’s not necessarily the case. What if, instead, Romney’s heart rate is a reflection of how amped up he is about his ideas? This could just mean that Romney was really “in the zone” for the debate, while Obama failed to bring a certain excitement for the task at hand. This was, in fact, a popular criticism of Obama’s performance.
So who DID win the debate? Well, if you want the candidate who kept his cool, it was Obama. If you want the one who was most excited, it was Romney. Maybe before the next debate Obama should drink some caffeine to get that energy up. It will be interesting to see how the next debate compares, now that the pressure is really on to be more energetic.
This also makes us here at Fitbit wonder if this sort of technology might have a place in debates in the future. Would a candidate ever agree to be hooked up to an EKG during the debate? Or at the very least, could such data be used to train for debates? We can’t wait to find out.
This is just our best guess at the candidates’ heart rates during the debate. There are a lot of reasons to take these with a grain of salt, but we’d be thrilled to see if others could reproduce or refute our analysis. Of the things to consider:
1. The heart rate measurements were taken during small clips when there’s no movement. No movement is necessary for accuracy, but ideally we’d have used longer clips (~15 seconds, at least).
2. There’s some natural variation in heart rates as well, especially when a person is calm, and “heart rate” is usually defined as the average heart rate over some time. Since we’re using short clips, we might not have seen enough heart beats to make an accurate measurement.
3. Lighting can change on stage and that would affect the results.
4. In all likelihood, both candidates are wearing makeup for the debate. Since we’re measuring changes in skin coloring, makeup can mask some of this.
5. The videos we used were compressed, and of lower quality. A higher definition video would likely be more accurate.
6. Heart rate alone is not the best measure of stress. Measures of heart rate variability, skin conductance, etc. used together are much more reliable.
Meet Zip: the latest addition to the Fitbit Tracker line! In developing the Zip, we reexamined every aspect of what makes our trackers great - from how the clip would work, to the shape of the device — but in the whole design process, the one feature that we kept coming back to was: how do we make a tracker that doesn’t have a button so that it’s more water resistant, but still has a display that you can interact with and is fun to use?
This inspired several lines of investigation on motion-based device interaction. We tried different gestures, from flicks of the wrist to turning the device upside down. ”It was interesting to see that men and women naturally prefer different motion interactions,” observed Dr. Shelten Yuen, our Chief Scientist. “Guys flick one way – towards their bodies – but women flick in the opposite way. And most of the gestures were either too hard to learn or not very fun to do. The one universal, easy, and enjoyable motion was the tap,” a simple motion that most of us are already used to from using smartphones or tablets.
Making it even trickier, though, we wanted to leverage the motion sensors inside the tracker to detect taps but NOT add any false steps or false calories at the same time (because they use the same motion sensors!). We did a lot of research on how people tap the Zip: how hard, how soft, where, tapping while walking, tapping while running, tapping standing still… everyone at Fitbit could be found testing out the tap feature at one time or another. We even went to the more extreme motions of dropping the Zip, or throwing it against a table. This allowed us to build some very sophisticated pattern recognition algorithms to accurately detect taps and steps without fear of them being mistaken one for the other.
It took some work, but it was worth it so that you can enjoy your Zip, and have fun with the new tap interface while also resting well in the knowledge that your Zip is sweat, rain, and water-resistant. You can learn more, or buy a Zip online now. Let us know what you think by heading to our Facebook page!