Misfit Shine: A Fitness Gadget Backed by Former Apple CEO Aims to be Different

A fitness gadget from a former Apple CEO has some serious tricks up its sleeve.

ByABC News
November 16, 2012, 8:17 AM

Nov. 16, 2012 — -- "We thought, if Apple were going to do it, how would they do it? They would do more than just make a cool product," John Sculley, a co-founder of Misfit Wearables, says about his company's new fitness gadget, the Shine.

It's something you can imagine a lot of executives saying when talking about their company's new product, but Sculley knows a little more about Apple than the average tech executive.

He was, of course, the CEO of the company from the mid-1980s until 1993 and is famous for his break with Steve Jobs.

Since then Sculley has invested in a handful of Internet-based businesses, but he now finds himself back in the hardware and software business with a new product. Together with his partner Sonny Vu, who is the CEO of the company, Misfits Wearables is building what it believes is the most unique and desirable fitness gadget yet.

Aircraft-grade aluminum
"The main difference between the Shine and all the others is that it is the most wearable product. You can wear it anywhere. It is the only product that is all metal," Vu said. "It is something you can wear to any occasion."

Just a look at the photo of the Shine above and it's clear that it doesn't look like any of the other plastic or rubber fitness gadgets (i.e. FitBit Zip, the Jawbone Up, or the Nike FuelBand). The Shine is no bigger than a quarter in circumference and is machined out of a piece of aircraft-grade aluminum. But there's more to it. Small holes have been carved out of the metal to allow for the LED light indicators to shine through. And it's waterproof.

Sculley and Vu believe the design of the gadget will allow it to stand out in a crowded market. It was important to them to build something that could be easily concealed, yet attractive and well-built.

Just like Apple, Sculley emphasizes. "Samsung is a great device company. But they make their phones out of plastic, Apple makes them out of metal."

Tap and pair
But there's no Bluetooth inside the circular, metal device. And there's no USB port for plugging it in either. It pairs with your iPhone in a different way than the others – all you have to do is place the metal device on top of the screen and it will sync the fitness data it collects with an app on your phone.

How is that all happening? Vu wouldn't answer that. He would only say that it's a "combination of a number of technologies working together in unison." He says the company will reveal more at a later date. "Once we are able to talk more about it -- it will be more evident, a lot of it is the product itself that helps enable this technology -- the material, etc."

Besides whatever secret sauce is inside the Shine, it also has the sensors to track your steps as well as your cycling and swimming activity. You will be able to see the information in an app the company is working on, but also those LED indicators on the Shine itself will give you an idea of your level of activity.

You will be able to tap on the metal and it will illuminate the ring of lights. ABC News got a look at a few early prototypes of the Shine and the tapping on it was responsive. The lights on the Shine we saw hadn't been completed yet, Vu explained in the demo.

The hardware certainly seems impressive, at least from the little we know about it and from the video the company released. But Sculley and Vu are equally as passionate about the software, which it isn't revealing at all yet.

"We have a great team in San Francisco doing the hardware industrial design, but the bulk of the team is made up of computer scientists," Vu said. "They are making the product really useful. One of the most useful things we can do is provide insight, displaying a chart and a graph is easy, but giving people personalized insights is harder." Vu explained that setting fitness and activity goals is going to be a large part of the experience.

Currently Misfit Wearables has 30 people working on the Shine and the systems. Vu himself has a background in computer science but he also studied language and language technologies at MIT. The last company he started – AgaMatrix -- created the first FDA-approved glucose meter to work with the iPhone.

He expects the Shine to start shipping by March to early adopters. The company just put up the project on Indiegogo, where it is allowing people to place pre-orders. The basic package costs $79 and includes the Shine, a clasp, and a sports wristband. As of the morning of Friday, Nov. 16, they had received over $154,000. Sculley stressed that the Indiegogo sale was merely to raise awareness for the company; the company has raised over $7 million in venture capital and Sculley himself is an investor.

Sculley believes that fitness technology is the next big thing. The same way he and Jobs felt that the personal computers were going to be the next big consumer market in the 1980s.

"Steve [Jobs] had this insight that no one else saw that the Mac would eventually be sold like Pepsi and Coke sell their products," Sculley said. "We are kind of at the same moment again, except this time it is about healthcare. The chance to figure it out can make a huge difference to the country."