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Intelligent Machines

Your Online Journal, Built from Heartbeats, Sleep Patterns, and Hikes

A startup called Gyroscope wants to build you a personal website that’s automatically updated with your own data.

It is difficult to collect and curate personal data collected by activity-tracking apps.

In the spring, Web designer Anand Sharma saw his doctor for an annual physical and became worried upon learning he had a low level of vitamin D. To fix this, he committed to running more often—an easy way to soak up sunshine—as well as something a little more drastic: monitoring everything he could about himself and posting it online, in hopes of motivating himself to improve his health.

Gyroscope aims to give users a better way to collect, view, and share data about themselves, such as recent workouts.

Now he is trying to help you do the same.

Though there are countless apps for tracking everything from sleep to fertility to bike rides, Sharma wanted all the data to be in one place, easy to understand, and more engaging to look at. He built a personal website to showcase his data, including his heart rate, logs of runs, Instagram photos, and places he visited.

Information was gathered from iPhone apps and automatically uploaded to Sharma’s site, and additional stats came from monthly blood tests he started subjecting himself to. He divided his data into sections for fitness, adventures, and his journal. Visitors can drill down into each of those to see, for instance, a monthly view of brightly colored, lightly pulsating tiles denoting all the places he’s visited (lots of coffee shops, airports, bakeries), and a daily view organizing this data on a timeline along with his heart rate, mode of transportation, and photos uploaded throughout the same day.

Months later, Sharma is still tracking himself, and he’s also cofounded a company called Gyroscope Innovations that will create a similar self-tracking website for you by connecting to apps running on your smartphone, including Strava and Moves, which track activities; Withings Healthmate, which tracks heart rate and activity and can pull in data from the company’s connected scale and its other gadgets; and Instagram. Like Sharma’s personal site, the design is slick with little circles calling out stats like recent workouts and destinations you’ve visited, placed around the border of a larger circle that includes more details like a map of your latest bike ride.

Currently in a private beta test with a few hundred users, Sharma expects Gyroscope to launch on the Web by the end of this year and says a mobile app is in the works, too.

It may be tricky to convince people to latch on to yet another service that purports to make it easier to keep tabs on yourself—or that there’s value in sharing so much personal data. Yet the rising popularity of fitness trackers, and the impending arrival of wearable devices like the Apple Watch, could spur interest in services like Gyroscope—that is, if it isn’t a pain to use and can surface interesting insights from your data.

Sharma hopes users will see Gyroscope as a way for friends to check out what you’re up to in all aspects of your life. This could help keep you motivated to get enough exercise, or eat properly.

I signed up for the site and connected it to Moves, Instagram, and Strava, which I already use regularly on my phone, and after a few hours I could see a map of a recent bike ride, a photo of a friend’s wedding, and that I’d recently visited a Starbucks.

It wasn’t revolutionary, but the information was smartly organized, and I can see how posting it online could be motivating. Sharma say he hopes to add the ability to track many more things, including continuous biometrics like heart rate, sleep, and blood-related stats—something that’s becoming increasingly realistic as wearable technology improves and spreads.

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