Top 3 Good-for-Your-Health Gadgets

Reported by ABC News’ Gitika Ahuja, from TEDMED2011, a conference where curious minds in medicine and technology come together to share and inspire.  She will be blogging this week about the latest and greatest talks and technologies.

Here in the Social Lounge at TedMed 2011  are booths everywhere highlighting new, emerging technologies  all geared to  help us all live better lives.  Here is a sneak peak at a few health lifestyle apps that will soon hit the market:

Right up front is the latest offering  from Jawbone, the makers of Bluetooth speakers and headsets.  This new product, called Up, is a sort of smart rubber wristband that you wear 24 hours a day. It tracks what you eat, how you sleep and your activity level. There is a companion phone app that connects to the device and uploads all your data.

The folks here are very secretive, so there is not much I can say at this point, other than that it seems to be an advanced accelerometer.   I asked if I could  touch it, and while the public relations representative behind the booth was reluctant, she let me pet her wrist for a second.  It seems to be made of rubber.  It reminds me of  a similar product already on the market called FitBit, which seems to be doing well with consumers obsessed with health.  Jawbone has not set a price or revealed any partners yet, but  Up is  expected to be on the market by the end of the year.  Stay up to date with  it   here.

Another mobile lifestyle app I came across is called, and is currently in private beta, or trial, mode. I met  its creator, Michael Kim, a pioneer in the “emerging habit movement,” whose goal is to help people change their behavior.    Think of it as a Four Square for habits.  Kim is a former X Box Live executive who is married to a clinical psychologist whose expertise, along with that of other researchers from the psychology department at Stanford University, helped design, test and hone the habit application.

Here is how it would work:  Say you want to start meditating, walking or writing.  You pick or enter the activity you want to do into the app  and assign a daily time allotment to it — something small, say five minutes a day after breakfast.  The idea is to train you to do the habit over time.  Every time you do the action you earn reward points, or “kwan,” the local currency in the world (yes, that’s a Jerry Maguire reference – Kim is big fan).  As you earn more kwan you unlock other features of the app and begin to earn the love and support of the community. (You can work your way up to Ambassador of Kwan.)

Kim says he and his team found that even after 100 days, 70 percent of users were still engaged in gamifying their habits. He says its because it’s mobile and social and rooted in good psychology.   The hope is that small things turn into habits over time (Kim says the “21 days to create a habit” idea is a myth), and by setting achievable goals to build confidence you can ensure the effect for a long time.

Next up — a series of consumer health products that snap right into your iPhone and allow you to monitor your weight and blood pressure over time.  These are really easy to understand. Made by Withings, it is a blood pressure monitor that plugs right into your iPhone so you can monitor and track your levels over time.  You can then send the information to your doctor and keep good records at home and become an informed patient.  Withings also makes a body scale that does the same thing — you weigh yourself, and within seconds your weight and other data are sent via Wi-Fi to your phone so you can kept it all tidy in one place.  The scale costs $159, and the blood pressure monitor is $119, both available at the Apple Store and Best Buy.  In the next couple of months, the company is also coming out with video baby monitor that plugs into your phone.