USC and VSP Global Release New Study on Fitness Tracker Wearables
LOS ANGELES—People who use fitness tracker wearables increased their activity level when prompted by a digital coach, according to the results of a newly released study conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) Center for Body Computing (CBC) and VSP Global’s innovation lab, The Shop. The study, published yesterday in the NEJM Catalyst (New England Journal of Medicine Group), is the first to look at motivators for consistent or increased activity engagement among fitness tracker wearable users. Using a prototype of VSP’s unique Level smart glasses, the researchers found interaction with social networks and use of digital coaches via a smartphone app connected to a biometric sensor embedded in eyeglasses provided incentive for users to increase activity, including an average 20 percent to 25 percent spike in daily steps when prompted by a digital coach. (Click here to watch a video of the USC study participants receiving their level frames.) Researchers also designed the study with the hypothesis that users would maintain daily activity if the rewards were not just tied to personal goals but were also connected to charitable giving. The app synched with VSP’s Eyes of Hope initiative, where study participants accrued points based on reaching daily step goals. One in every five Americans wears a health tracker but there was no research that took a look at what motivates engagement, until now,” said Leslie Saxon, MD, founder and executive director of the USC CBC who led the research effort. “Since the average study participant fell into a group considered overweight—which can lead to increasing health issues such as diabetes and heart disease—it was illuminating to find digital coaching via the app and an altruistic connection helped these participants maintain their engagement or even increase their activity in some areas.” In addition to the digital coaching, social networks and philanthropic connection providing increased engagement, researchers found older age participants—63 percent were over age 40—along with higher life satisfaction scores also predicted higher activity levels and were factors in consistent engagement. On the Satisfaction with Life scale, those who demonstrated higher emotional stability, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness were more likely to exercise regularly. Saxon noted that having a sensor built into a form factor participants wore every day—prescription eyeglasses—was a key motivator for participants. “In many ways, the Level prototype combines all the unique capabilities of VSP Global, including eyewear design and manufacturing, eyecare, optics, technology and charitable giving,” said Jay Sales, co-director of VSP’s innovation lab, The Shop.