Mobile health and previewing my future self

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 22, 2010        

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FatBooth appI’m a big fan of what the clever folks over at the Institute for the Future are up to with their BodyShock The Future Contest. BodyShock is a call for ideas to improve global health over the next three to 10 years by transforming our bodies and lifestyles. One of the more recent entries for the contest was highlighted on the IFTF’s blog recently: Previewing Your Future Self.

“I think there is a new way to use technology to motivate people — by inspiring them — by showing them what they could look like,” the narrator of the video submission explains. “What if you could see the cause and effect?”

What if while running on a treadmill you could watch a reflection of your future, slimmer self? Two miles a day and you’ll like this in a year. Three miles a day and you’ll look like this. Wouldn’t you run more?

Regular readers may notice that my photo this week has gained a few pounds. Maybe about 100 pounds. No, we didn’t Photoshop it — this plus-sized MobiHealthNews editor visage is courtesy of the latest iPhone app that I downloaded thanks to a recent blog post by Dr. Jay Parkinson. The app is called FatBooth. Take any photo out of your digital library or take a new one of a person facing the camera head-on. Open up the FatBooth app and it automatically adds about 100 pounds.

“In other words, these different visualizations — of immediate rewards, long-term rewards, or long-term consequences — highlight the range of possible ways that designers may experiment with persuading us in the future,” Bradley Kreit writes over at the IFTF blog. “Hidden beneath these previews, though, is a second key point: In the future we’ll have on-demand access to context-appropriate health information as well as increasingly powerful tools to develop increasingly personalized simulations.”

Wireless health tools and services often aim to collect real-time information about users’ health decisions and vital signs. FatBooth’s ability to create a convincingly corpulent version of me is motivating in its own right. I have no doubt that others can create similarly motivating visages of our future selves based on our health decisions. So, is this future so far away?

Whatever the case, it may go without saying, but when it comes to motivation: That photo sure beats a line graph.