It can be hard to see the way workouts affect our bodies. As you exercise, your body might be changing, but you can't see it — and that can be discouraging. To help us better see the way our bodies transform through exercise and diet (or lack thereof), Naked Labs is launching a body-scanning mirror that tracks all the small ways your body is changing over time.
A futuristic home gadget. The mirror is attached to a scale, which "works on carpet," cofounder Farhad Farahbakhshian told me excitedly. It's apparently very difficult to make a scale that works on carpet.
Minimalistic in appearance, the scale and mirror don't look like anything special at first. But the combination is packed with serious body-scanning technology usually reserved for building 3-D animations and game avatars. Getting a body scan used to require multiple cameras and a giant metallic rig that costs thousands of dollars. But in recent years, companies like Google and Microsoft have been able to shrink that technology down into portable devices. Naked Labs has built in Intel's RealSense technology to make its scans.
Getting your scan is a bit of a silly exercise. You stand on the rotating scale, frozen, with your arms hovering slightly off your body. The scale then slowly spins, while the scanner on the mirror takes in your measurements. The whole process is about 30 seconds, but it feels longer.
The Wi-Fi connected mirror sends scans to a mobile app and allows you to compare new scans to past versions of yourself. The app details both your weight and body measurements. "So I can see, like, hey there's some asymmetry between my calves," says Farahbakshian. "My left side in general is a lot larger, but it gives you that contextual information that not only helps you understand if you're going to get injured ... but also how your workouts are affecting your body."
Filling the gap left by wrist wearables. Fitness trackers from purveyors like Fitbit, Jawbone and Misfit can be great tools for tracking steps, but they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to understanding how your workouts change your body. As Wired and others have reported, fitness-tracking wrist wearables are not exactly precise when it comes to estimating calorie burn. They can tell you about your step count or help you track how far you've run — information that's important to understanding your daily activity. But if you're trying to reach a weight loss goal or measure muscle mass, these tools don't have much to offer. Naked Labs' mirror stands to fill some of that gap by letting you actually look at how your body is morphing.
Tracking your body and your weight. Naked Labs' investor Vijay Ullal came to the company and said he was working out but wasn't losing weight and he couldn't understand why. So the company tracked him over the course of one year to see if it could visualize any changes that were happening.
Farahbakshian told me that Ullal's weight didn't change over the course of the year, but in the images above, you can see that even though his weight may not have changed, his workouts were affecting the shape of his body. Putting numbers to what you see in the mirror every day can be empowering.
Body data can either be empowering or anxiety-inducing, depending on the person. Just as some people are prone to obsessing over calorie counts, some people may use body scans to justify excessive exercise.
Still, this kind of information about our bodies could do more than just push us towards exercise. In the connected hospital of tomorrow, contextual data about a person's body changes may help doctors have a more holistic understanding of their total health. Of course, being able to share this kind of data with your doctor is still a long way off.
In the meantime, you can play around with your own body scan. The Naked Labs mirror is available for preorder Thursday directly on its site for $499 and will ship in March 2017.