Fit Tech: Striiv Smart Pedometer

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[Technology can improve your life—literally. In our continuing series Fit Tech, we look at the latest and greatest in health and fitness gadgets, apps, and services.]

Pedometers have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 1700s. While early pedometers simply counted steps and measured distance, today’s pedometers are significantly more impressive.

Enter the Striiv smart pedometer: a small, white device that does a lot more than just measure your walks. Sure, at the very core of the Striiv is the traditional pedometer; it tallies up the number of steps you walk each day and spits out information on distance and calories burned in convenient charts that are displayed on the Striiv itself, as well as in the Striiv computer software. But Striiv also attempts to motivate you to walk more through mini-games and apps.

With each step you log on Striiv, you get energy points. Energy points are virtual currency that you can spend in several ways: you can take on challenges (which earn you more energy points), you can apply them toward the Walkathon app (which donates to the charity of your choice), and you can use energy points to build up your little island in the MyLand game. However you choose to spend your energy points, you only get them if you walk, run, climb stairs, or otherwise move about.

Fitness Level: The Striiv Smart Pedometer is appropriate for just about everyone, whether you're a marathon runner or a basement-dweller whose most arduous daily trek is to the refrigerator.

Best Activities: Though Striiv is attempting to target anybody and everybody who moves their body at any point during the day, this device isn't really for athletes. There's virtually no advanced tracking, and the little games and goals Striiv uses to encourage movement are hardly rigorous enough to cause a sweat. Striiv is really targeted at office drones—people who sit at their desk for eight hours a day and take the elevator instead of the stairs. Striiv is interesting enough to get you to jog stairs during your lunch break or take a couple of laps around the office.

The Striiv's keychain attachment fits into the bottom of the device.

Design and specs: Getting started with the Striiv is simple; the company even includes a convenient "First Steps" packet that walks you through the not-so-complicated process. The Striiv’s box includes a USB cable, charger, keychain attachment, and belt clip holster. To start using the Striiv, just plug it in and allow it to charge up, and then hook it on your belt or keychain or toss it in your bag and you're good to go.

Unlike traditional pedometers, the Striiv needs no initial stride-length calibration. Instead, it uses a 3-axis accelerometer and an altimeter to measure your steps and distance.

The Striiv is quite small.

The Striiv itself is tiny at just 1.7 inches wide, 2.75 inches tall, and half an inch thick, and it weighs 1.4 ounces. It has a 2-inch diagonal color touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 240. The Striiv has three buttons: a power button on the top of the device, and Home and Back buttons located on the front, just below the touchscreen.

I spent about two weeks with the Striiv, and while it's not perfect, it's pretty close. Despite not being calibrated, the Striiv was able to accurately count almost all of my steps. It seemed to have the biggest issue with step- and stair-counting on exercise machines, such as the elliptical and the stairmaster, which is understandable. The Striiv is impressively accurate is in vehicles; lots of pedometers erroneously count vehicle bumps as steps, but the Striiv's errors were surprisingly minimal. I took the Striiv on a 340-mile drive to Los Angeles, and it only reported about 35 (nonexistent) steps.

Apps and Service: Once you have your Striiv up and running, using it is pretty straightforward. Hit any of the three buttons to bring up the lock screen, which shows you the time and your total steps for the day. Without unlocking the device, you can also tap the part of the screen that displays your total steps and cycle through other displays: how many stairs you've climbed, how many miles you've walked, how many calories you've burned, and how many minutes of movement you've completed.

The Striiv's home screen shows your statistics for the day.

Once unlocked, the home screen gives you another look at your total steps/stairs/miles/calories/minutes for the day, along with little bars that fill up as you achieve various goals. Goals can be anything from walking the length of the Golden Gate Bridge to climbing Mt. Everest, and are displayed on the Striiv's screen as you work toward them. The home screen also has shortcuts to your three most-used apps, and you can access the rest of the apps by tapping the menu button at the bottom of the screen.

There are 10 items on the menu screen: MyLand, Challenges, Walkathon, Race, Friends, Trophies, Charts, Stats, Tips, and Settings. The first four items are apps that utilize the energy point system.

MyLand is a FarmVille-like building game. Your job is to build up a fantasy island (complete with centaur inhabitants) and help it thrive using energy points. You purchase plants and structures using coins, and then you use energy points to build each plant/structure to completion. Completed plants/structures yield coins over time, so it's in your interest to build as much as you can.

The Challenges app lets you earn more energy points by completing easy, medium, and hard challenges. Challenges can be anything from climbing 15 stairs in 15 minutes to climbing 500 stairs in one day. Challenges pay well, but each challenge costs energy points to accept--and if you fail to complete a challenge, you have to eat that cost.

The Walkathon app donates to charities, like Clean Water, based on the number of steps you take.

The Walkathon app donates to various charities on your behalf based on the number of steps you walk. There are three charities: Clean Water, which provides one glass of water for a child in South America for every 18,000 steps you take; Fight Polio, which immunizes one child against polio for every 60,000 steps you take; and Rainforest, which conserves one parking-spot sized area of Tanzania's rainforest for one year for every 18,000 steps you take. Walkathon is funded by corporate sponsors and is made possible through a partnership with Global Giving.

The Race app lets you challenge computer-simulated characters to races (around the block, up the Statue of Liberty, etc) for energy points. If you have friends who also have Striiv, you can challenge them to races as well. Unlike challenges, races don't cost any energy points.

The rest of the menu screen items are clear-cut. Friends lets you see your Striiv friends' achievements, Trophies shows you your achievements, Charts shows you 5-day and 1-month charts of your data, Stats shows you your Striiv statistics (all-time totals, personal bests, etc), Tips gives you info on how to use the device and the apps, and Settings allows you to change settings (screen brightness, date, units, volume, etc).

The Striiv My Land game is one of the many extras in this pedometer.

Verdict: The Striiv has some nifty extras, but it's still a pedometer at heart. In other words, while it might get you off your butt and walking up a few flights of stairs in order to win a challenge, it's probably not going to turn a couch potato into an Olympian (or anywhere close). It's also not a workout device; unless you're a runner, the Striiv doesn't really have anything you can use, such as ways to log your workout or a built-in MP3 player.

That said, the Striiv will definitely get you to move a little bit more in your everyday life, and that can really make a difference. Heck, I spent 10 minutes jogging around produce in the grocery store just because I wanted to win a challenge, and that's 10 minutes I would have otherwise spent staring blandly at mushrooms.

This story, "Fit Tech: Striiv Smart Pedometer " was originally published by TechHive.

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