RPGs and Gamification of Real Life

This one is a short one today, because, to be honest, I just stared at the screen for like 5 minutes trying to think of what to write.

Yesterday, I got a new device – a gadget to try out that I’ve been interested in for a little while. The gadget is called a Whoop Strap 3.0, and the purpose of this gadget is to be a pro-athlete’s Fitbit replacement.

Fitbits are fun devices that themselves try to gamify your health and wellness by measuring steps taken and tying that number to an approximate calorie burn, giving you goals to tackle and measuring your progress against those goals.

Whoop is, for all intents and purposes, a similar device but simpler, in a way. The device itself is unremarkable, simply a non-absorbent fabric strap that terminates in a metal clasp. You clip the clasp onto a hinge, which is built into the actual tracker, a plain, nearly unlabeled piece of black plastic with the green LEDs on the bottom that those of you with heart rate tracking Fitbits may be familiar with.

The whole point of the device is that it tracks your heart rate at all times. You never have to take it off, as it is waterproof (good since I like swimming!), and it uses low-power Bluetooth so it can take your heart rate literally every second and occasionally connects to your phone to dump that data into its companion app.

I mentioned earlier that it is basically intended to be Fitbit for pro athletes, and it is that because the granularity of tracking allows it to do things that most fitness trackers can’t. The constant heart rate sampling is all it needs to detect fitness activities – since it can see your elevated heart rate. The point is to measure your resting heart rate and your heart rate variance, which sets a goal – to ensure the spread between those two numbers is as wide apart as possible. Using this, it can also track other things – primarily, sleep, as it can see when your heart rate and pacing dips to sleeping levels and can track sleep type with this data.

Now, in order to do well, it needs about 3 weeks of usable data, and I got mine yesterday, so it has some interesting quirks – early on it will make some assumptions and ask questions to try and better set its data. Mine, for example, doesn’t know how to count the time I spend when I first go to bed, because I often struggle to get to sleep initially, so the metrics it gave me for sleep efficiency is kind of incorrect – but it wasn’t too far off and is not bad for the first night.

Naturally, the MMO nerd in me had to know the numbers, and it fulfills that very odd need. I got a full report of my sleeping performance (yes, “performance”) including breakdowns of sleep cycles and numbers of disturbances (21!), and measures sleep latency (which I’m still not fully sure what that is) and efficiency (the percentage of time you spend in-bed that is sleep).

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about modern life is how gamified and measured things are. You can acquire points at stores, measures of my performance at work look much closer to a stat sheet than they did 10 years ago, and my self-improvement uses a device and app to give me detailed stats not unlike my raid performance logs via Skada or logging websites. I certainly could not have imagined wanting to buy a device to give me this weird degree of data about how I sleep back when I started WoW, for example, but to be fair, at that time, I don’t think I could even conceive of such a thing – Bluetooth barely existed for call-only headsets and speakerphones, and the idea of listening to music on such a thing was silly, much less something like true wireless earbuds.

But, it is kind of fun to live in a world where I can get data to level up my sleeping!

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