If Reality TV has taught us anything about weight loss it’s that the more people who are watching you, the quicker you’ll drop the pounds. Social pressure is a key ingredient in the eScale from Body Trace. This bathroom scale comes equipped with a modified cell phone module allowing it to broadcast your weight to a Body Trace “motivational webpage.” There you, or your avatar, can display the fluctuations in your weight with all the pride or shame that you want. Along with a calorie calculator, BMI graph, and health tips, the Body Trace motivational page allows you to connect with friends and strangers to share in your experience. It’s social networking meets weight loss obsession.
This isn’t the first web-based weight loss device Singularity Hub has seen. There are smart toilets that will analyze your weight as you pee, as well as analyze it for your doctor. There are big differences with Body Trace, however. First, the eScale has a GSM network module, so it connects directly to the Body Trace server straight out of the box. No WiFi or other setup necessary. You just pop in the batteries (six D-cells included) and step on the eScale. It’s that simple. Second, Body Trace is really pushing the networking aspects of their motivational page. Looking at the screen shot, I am reminded of Facebook’s wall interface. It’s a nice concept, and I have no doubt that being able to share the weight loss struggle will really help some people achieve their goals.
The only real question I have is, is it worth the price? The eScale itself is fairly cheap (~$120 USD) but the motivational page, and all the online services come at a rate of $20 for 3 months. If you pre-order you get three months free, and referrals also earn you three months, but any way you slice it, you’ll eventually be paying Body Trace above and beyond the price of the scale. If you’re thinking about splitting that cost among different members of your household, think again. Each scale is good for one customer only. Straight from the Body Trace FAQ (emphasis mine):
“Multiple eScales can co-exist in the same household and we actually suggest to have one for everybody in the family. Only one person can use a given eScale, so if there are more members of the family that keep track of their weight, then using multiple eScales is a good idea. You can even mark each other as “Friends” so you can keep track of each others success. “
Even at a total price for the year at $200 ($120 for the eScale and $80 for the service) I think people would pay, but to me it’s pretty outrageous that you can’t share the scale. Would including that modality really have been that hard? Also, while the sample motivational page is ads free, I think including ads is a better choice than charging clients for access. Most weight loss products would pay premium rates for ad space in a weight-loss social network. And few social networks charge for membership. I get the feeling that Body Trace has a promising and innovative product, but may be lacking in long term business acumen.
Which is unfortunate, because I think Body Trace is otherwise a very intelligent and interesting company. If nothing else you should read through their blog because it is a great look at the hi-tech entrepreneurial process. The social networking meme is one of the defining paradigms of the upcoming generation. A generation, if we are to believe the experts, will be mostly comprised of the obese. The eScale and the Body Trace motivational page make a lot of sense. They also fit in with a larger trend of body monitoring that will define our lives as technology and health care merge further. Whether you are talking scales or toilets, advanced health care is coming into our bathrooms and information is going to be streaming out. No matter how you measure it, however, tracking your weight loss and sharing that data will likely carry a heavy price tag.