Towards the Fitbit of the Future

The first generation of “quantified self” apps focused on physical metrics, such as exercise and sleep. New apps are now experimenting with ways to incorporate data that are harder to measure and perhaps more useful: metrics of the mind. Here are 12 interesting ones:

  1. Reporter ($3.99) — An app for “understanding the things you care about.” Gives users a few surveys each day and returns insights.
  2. Optimized ($3.99) — Users track everyday activities, and the app produces insights such as how walking affects your sleep and how certain people affect your mood.
  3. Empath (free) — The app is powered by an API that determines your mood by recording your speech patterns. The creators see applications to many Internet of Things devices.
  4. Exist ($6/month) — Layers information from your fitness tracker, calendar, and other services with self-reported mood data, producing insights like “you have a better day when you’re not listening to music.” Integrates with Fitbit, Spotify, Twitter, and other services.
  5. Mr Mood ($0.99) — A really simple app that just asks users to rate their moods each day. Over 500,000 users. Similar apps: Moodnotes, Moods, Moodprint, YouHue.
  6. Realifex (~$1/month) — Users journal their thoughts and experiences, noting how they feel, and see insights about their emotions over time. Similar apps: Moodtrack Diary, In Flow.
  7. Happify (freemium, $4.76/month) — Provides activities intended to help users overcome negative thoughts, anxiety, and stress. For example, one activity asks users to list three reasons why they appreciate a friend. 1.2 million users.
  8. Pacifica (free + paid exercises)— Intended as treatment for anxiety, the app enables users to record their moods throughout the day, complete meditation exercises, set daily goals, keep a thought diary, and track health habits like exercise & sleep. Also has forums where people can discuss their challenges together.
  9. Ginger.io (free) — Monitors your cell phone activity and flags any potential indicators of depression, such as missed calls, reduced social interaction, changes in sleep patterns, or changes to travel patterns. Connects users with therapists.
  10. Fisher Wallace Stimulator (in development) — An electrotheraphy device that stimulates particular parts of the brain, reducing self-reported depressions symptoms.
  11. Spire ($149.95) — A wearable device that clips to your pants or bra and determines your well-being by monitoring your breathing patterns. When you’re feeling tense, it suggests calming exercises.
  12. Being ($199) — A watch that tracks stress levels, in addition to sleep patterns and other physical metrics. Claims to be able to distinguish between good stress (excitement) and bad stress.

Observations

  • It’s likely that a comprehensive data aggregator will win. These apps will work best when integrated across all our devices and digital services, especially as the Internet of Things grows.
  • It’s hard to get large numbers of people to self-report. Payoffs to self-reported data are not immediate in these apps. It takes lots of time and energy to enter enough data for useful trends to emerge. The Exist app does well to minimize manual input and integrate behavioral data from other services. How could self-reported data be made immediately useful?
  • There’s a race between brain science and technology, and technology is leading. All the data we accumulate is useful only if we can package them into useful insights. We’re close to completely surrounding ourselves with recording devices, but we’re far from understanding how the mind works.
  • A key challenge is finding a social hook. Some of these apps have social elements, such sharing moods with friends, but there hasn’t been anything magical enough to launch an app into the mainstream. What are social hooks that could do the trick?

Give one a try, and let me know what you think.

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