Motion sensing wristbands, to date, have mostly been used to count steps and track sleep. They have gotten a lot of us to move more, and made us more comfortable with the idea of gathering and using data about our bodies. Clearly, though, they represent just the first generation of motion tracking technology.
The Liv Smart Bracelet is one of the first truly second-generation wearables that I’ve seen. Unveiled this week in San Francisco at the HAX hardware accelerator’s biannual demo day, Liv, from HabitAware, is designed to break bad habits by interrupting the wearer with a vibration in the midst of doing whatever it is he or she wants to stop doing.
To start using the gadget ($99 preorder, $149 retail), the wearer calibrates it by performing the action he would like to stop—say, biting nails, sucking a thumb (in older children) or pulling out hair (trichotillomania). The calibration is precise enough, says company founder Sameer Kumar, to successfully distinguish between even very similar actions. Then, every time the wearer repeats that action, the bracelet vibrates and records the incident. The data can later be uploaded to a companion app that will analyze it and make proactive suggestions—for example, that a particularly habit-prone time of day is coming up so it might be a good time for the user to take a walk or do something else distracting.
Kumar says he developed the gadget for and with his wife, who had a long history of eyelash and eyebrow plucking. It solved her problem, he says, and she has been able to regrow her eyebrows for the first time in 20 years.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.