Fitbit’s first two days of trading were good ones: on Thursday, the activity-tracker company’s shares soared $9.68, or 48 percent, to $29.68, and on Friday, they climbed another $2.82, or 9.5 percent, to end the week at $32.50.
Yet while investors are evidently enthusiastic about Fitbit, which focuses on selling a range of wristbands and clip-on gadgets for monitoring metrics like steps, sleep, calories, and heart rate, there are still major challenges to making these kinds of wearable devices work for all kinds of people and using them to glean medically useful data (see “The Struggle for Accurate Measurements on Your Wrist”).
For instance, the wrist–which most popular activity trackers, including most of Fitbit’s products, are made to clasp–isn’t always a great spot for taking measurements. When it comes to using optical heart rate sensors, which Fitbit includes in its higher-end wristbands, arms that are too hairy, fat, skinny, or sweaty, can result in inaccurate measurements.
And while activity tracking has, for the most part, already been figured out across the wearable market, this potential for innacuracy makes it hard for devices to move from gym companions to medical assistants that actually help monitor your health. For that to happen, we’ll need to make devices that can take more accurate measurements on a wider range of people, and we’ll also probably need devices that can take even more types of measurements. These measurements could include blood pressure, for instance, which a company called Quanttus is working on by using a wristband to track the tiny body movements that result from your heart pumping blood, and skin conductance, which is already starting to show up in some wristbands such as Microsoft’s Band and measures the skin’s ability to conduct electricity (this tends to climb along with stress).
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient
The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
The covid tech that is intimately tied to China’s surveillance state
Heat-sensing cameras and face recognition systems may help fight covid-19—but they also make us complicit in the high-tech oppression of Uyghurs.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.