What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn't See

What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn't See – March 2014

For the last couple of years, Albert Sun and I have been working on interactive content for the Well blog. Our finest hour may have come with the recent launch of Wired Well, a series examining the increasing role of technology in the world of health & fitness. During Albert's three month quest to wear and review every major fitness tracker, we decided we wanted to show folks how these gadgets work.

In the end, I created an interactive system for synchronizing video with line graphs to compare human activity with the data picked up by the accelerometer. With help from the NYT Video team, we filmed our colleague Scott Blumenthal going about his regular day – eating, riding his bike, washing the dishes, doing the occasional jumping jack.

how accelerometers work - while sitting

The funny looking box strapped to Scott's wrist is our very own low-tech FitBit, a device Albert found in the far corners of the internet that – unlike most commercial activity trackers – allowed us to download the raw accelerometer data it had been capturing.

How accelerometers work - while doing jumping jacks

With help from Josh Williams' fantastic scrollstory library, we configured the page to trigger each chapter automatically as you scroll down the page. In some cases, the accelerometer knew Scott was keeping busy, but it was easily fooled…

how accelerometers work - while eating