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.