This week, Nike revealed Nike+ Kinect Training, an exercise game for the Xbox 360. But it’s an announcement that’s bigger than it may look. With Nike+ Kinect, Nike will begin counting what you do in a video game toward our Nike+ Fuel pool in the cloud, syncing all Nike+ services, including the new Fuelband, into a single measurable value of activity. It’s a digital health coup–a networked database of everything you do in an era when my doctor’s office still updates patient files with a typewriter.
The game itself looks fine–frankly, it’s a spitting image for similar exercise titles we’ve already seen for Kinect with a healthy dose of celebrity branding. But it comes with an interesting promise: Fuel will continue to have deeper integration into different products in different parts of our lives. Fuel is the new calorie, and we’re better off for it*.
*It’s 10 p.m., I’m in my pajamas, and I’m shadow boxing in my living room. I’m not even playing Nike’s new Kinect game yet; it’s all because of this LED-infused black band around by wrist, the Nike+ Fuelband, that tracks all my diverse activities through the day and rounds them into one number: Fuel.
My goal is 3,000–or what Nike labels a generally active lifestyle. I’ve already gone on a 3-mile run, but I’m about 40 Fuel short.
I’ve had a Fuelband for about two months now. That’s long enough for the new-gadget sheen to have worn off, for me to have spotted the device’s sometimes infuriating quirks of measuring certain activities (ellipticals!), yet it continues to modify my behavior for the better. While Runkeeper never acknowledged my life beyond the track, my Fuelband gives me points for activities that are good for me in more ways than cardio. I get Fuel for walking to the store to get groceries, then I even get some decent Fuel for preparing dinner (maybe a bit too much, to be honest, but anything I cook has to be healthier than take-out). I get Fuel for going to baseball games and concerts–for getting out of the apartment and actually living my life.
The interesting thing is, my Fuelband has a calorie counter, too, but I never check it. Burning calories has always been a futile goal to me, a depressing statistic that only serves to remind that I shouldn’t have eaten that extra taco (okay, two tacos) last night rather than encouraging me to do more right now. Fuel is a remarkable psychological trick–I earn Fuel–it’s simultaneously a goal and a reward. And at the end of a run, panting and cramped, I’ve essentially earned more energy to do more things.
So reps? Lap times? The gym? My living room? Shadow boxing? Gaming? It’s not about that complex, diverse data. Fuel is about activity, and a simple, tacit thesis** that comes along with that: Be active. Be healthy.
**And, okay, maybe, just maybe the gamer in me realizes that wearing a Fuelband while playing Nike+ Kinect Training might just score me double Fuel.