Ever suspect you do more housework than your spouse? Or that certain tasks at work raise your blood pressure? Maybe you wonder why you are sneezing more lately, or whether carbs are really what is making you tired after lunch?
Turns out, there’s an app or gadget to test all of that. Advancements in wearable body sensors, mobile applications and other gadgets mean that nearly everything we do can be captured, logged and analyzed. And everyday consumers are jumping at the chance to conduct their own experiments — tracking sleep, caffeine intake, kids’ studying habits, household chores, even whether a baby is nursing more frequently on Mom’s left breast versus her right.
“I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘obsessed,’ ” said Ernesto Ramirez, a self-tracking devotee who helped to organize a two-day conference on the subject last week in San Francisco. Speakers at past “Quantified Self” conferences have included a man who developed his own app to see whether he could walk every street in Manhattan and a dad who used trackers on his kids to monitor chores.
“I think there’s an overall trend toward curiosity and proving knowledge of one’s self in the world,” Ramirez said.
HopeLab, based in Redwood, Calif., is one nonprofit looking to harness technology to improve health. It has developed a $30 movement-tracking device for kids called a “Zamzee,” and a website that rewards activity with online points and badges.
HopeLab has developed video games for young cancer patients that let them pretend to blast cancer cells. Researchers there say their studies have shown the game improved patients’ moods and encouraged them to stick with treatment.
Ramirez said he thinks the next step will be embedding sensors in nearly everything a person encounters throughout the day and linking that information together. Think of a car that won’t start if you’ve consumed too much alcohol or a light bulb that changes colors when it’s time to go to bed.