Quit the numbers game with display-less Shapa smart scale

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An innovative new scale called Shapa has launched today. This smart gadget helps you shed those pounds, but without telling you you how much you actually weigh.

It comes from a Silicon Valley startup co-founded by social scientist and Duke University professor Dan Ariely. The gadget combines behavioral science with artificial intelligence and incorporates it into its design, feedback mechanism and recommendations. The idea is that by not showing you your weight, the product will help you make healthy lifestyle changes without demotivation associated with seeing daily fluctuations in your weight.

“Sadly, technology has a negative impact on the effectiveness of the scale as a useful tool to manage weight because digital scales are giving us feedback at a granularity that is very high,” said Ariely.

“Weight naturally fluctuates a lot from day to day regardless of how much we eat, what diet we have and whether or not we went for a walk, and these fluctuations confuse, demotivate, and frustrate us. In fact, according to our research 80% of people who want to lose weight said that weighing themselves makes them feel bad.”

I’ve been taking the scale through its paces over the past month and can attest that it works as advertised. The gadget and associated app entirely remove the numerical component and guide you to think proactively about making healthy lifestyle choices.

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In terms of design, Shapa is very sturdy and heavier than it looks. It comes in a sleek wood design (in Cherry, Oak and Black) and Orange for those that want something different. Don’t look for a display because you won’t find one. The only visual indicator is an S that sits in the middle of the scale which lights up to provide notifications.

The accompanying smartphone app is the repository for all information. When you first set-up and pair the scale, the app will take you through a detailed questionnaire on everything from your personality, to your habits and environment. All of this ultimately helps Shapa provide tailored suggestions for improvement.

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You’ll get asked questions such as “Do you have a dining room or kitchen table with chairs at home?”, “How long does it take you to get to the nearest grocery store?”, “Do you have a gym membership or access to exercise facilities”, and much, much more. Shapa clearly wants to know everything about you. I would estimate that it probably took me about 30 minutes to complete the questionnaire, if not more.

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Shapa doesn’t display your daily weight in pounds or kilograms in the app. Instead, it provides feedback on your progress in a simple, 5-level feedback mechanism based on colors. You’ll also see your Shapa Age, a metric of your health and weight loss. To see how far you’ve come you can view your progress in the app by choosing Weigh-In History.

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The Shapa Color and Age are calculated averaging a user’s weigh-ins. This provides a better feeling of progress and avoids the love-hate feelings associated with seeing daily weight fluctuations. As it uses a three-week rolling average, this is how long you’ll need to wait for full functionality to kick in. 

You should be stepping on a scale every day, ideally twice a day. And Shapa will make sure you do by sending you reminders. If you haven’t been using the scale in a while, you can “reset” your progress. If you are planning on traveling, the app allows you to pause your tracking so as not to affect your progress or streaks over time.

Essential reading: Roundup of the top 10 smart scales on the market

The scale will also dish out health tips and tailored recommendations called missions to help you create better habits based on your personality, lifestyle, and environment. These are adjusted over time through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

For example, the system will provide you with suggestions for improvement such as a different grocery list or a healthier breakfast. Or perhaps rearranging the pantry might be a good idea so that junk food is hidden from view. The idea is to gradually shape behavior over time via a series of gentle nudges.

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Shapa has definitely come up with an original way to integrate a few important principles from social science with a motivational tool to help you lose weight. Small every-day steps will ultimately lead to a healthier you. The scale is clearly not for everyone, but I can see that there may be demand for such a tool.

The scale will set you back $129 and you will also need a 12-month subscription to the Shapa program at $9.99 per month. Up to seven users can set up a profile on their phone so one subscription is good for the whole family. 

If you are quick, you can take advantage of the offer that runs until January 31, 2018. This will allow you to purchase Shapa for $99, along with a discounted $7.95 per month subscription cost. For more information head over to shapa.me.

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