Shapa is a new digital scale created by behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University and author of many books including PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL and THE (HONEST) TRUTH ABOUT DISHONESTY. His work looks into how humans make decisions, and the role of rationality – or irrationality – in our daily lives. He’s recently he’s turned his work to the decisions we make around health, and Shapa is one result of his work.
Shapa is unique in many ways, but the most obvious one is that it doesn’t have a screen and it won’t tell you how much you weigh. (Yep, a scale that doesn’t display weight.) This is a deliberate choice in today’s world of hypertracking. We have so many technologies at our fingertips that can track a million things about our bodies – from steps walked, flights of stairs climbed, hours slept, to muscle mass, water percentage, bone density, etc. And companies like Fitbit and Garmin even have smart scales, designed to work with their own wearables. Basically, more than ever, tech has enabled humans to create an entire ecosystem of data-driven knowledge about our own bodies.
The problem, Ariely says, is that the actual story of our health gets lost in these data points. “By giving people more granularity,” he says, “we’re making information less useful.” That’s especially true of weight, which can fluctuate as much as three pounds throughout the day. Watching the scale go up and down in normal, healthy patterns and scrutinizing it to a tenth of a pound tells us nothing about overall health.
Enter Shapa. With Shapa, the scale works in tandem with an app, so though the app is indeed recording your weight, it never tells you what that is. Instead, it displays a color, depending on if you’re underweight, about right or overweight, but nothing more specific. The app also sends you on goals and missions: things like tidy your bedroom, write a goal and affix it on your fridge, set an alarm on your phone to get up every two hours, walk to the gym, etc. Through these tasks and goals, the Shapa app is training you into better habits, and it’s also recording which habits are resulting in you making healthier decisions (as reflected in weight trends).
Why It’s Hot: This product, and the theory behind it, is taking the concept of the monitored human (and all the assorted tech developments) and turning it on its head. Is less information actually better when it comes to tracking your health? How can these psychology principles be applied to other health tracking fields?