Last year Anand Sharma created a website that had stunningly beautiful real-time visualization of his personal activity data. He later when on to provide technical details regarding how we built the site and later announced that he was working to bring this as a service to the public called Gyroscope. As of last week they are slowly starting to provide early access for people to join the service. If you find this service interesting I recommend you go ahead and sign up now to get in the queue.
In this age of the quantified self the amount of personal activity data we generate from a multitude of devices, sensors, and apps can be mind numbing. It’s equally difficult to draw insight and meaning from the isolated data that is strewn across so many places. Currently there is a race for services that can provide useful or clear actionable advice based on all this data we’re generating. The first step in this process is to aggregate the data that is generated across various services and then find ways to present it together for further analysis. Visually it may become easier to find patterns that emerge or other insights.
Gyroscope begins like other aggregation services by first asking you to connect your accounts. The supported services you can connect fall into three categories that include fitness, health, and digital/online. Below is a breakdown of the initial services that are currently available and you can view in the screenshot the data that is imported based on the service:
Fitness: Runkeeper, Strava, Fitbit, and Jawbone
Health: Moves, Withings, Google Fit, and Apple Health Kit
Digital & Online: Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, and Rescuetime
These are just the launch services and they’ve indicated that more are to come. In fact they surveyed users asking them to vote for tracking categories they’d like to see which in turn would add additional app/device support. Sleep tracking led the way with other areas such as music tracking, credit card analysis, and MyFitnessPal integration.
They do a nice job of providing details as to which data will be imported upon connecting your account. You also have the ability to select whether you want your profile and data to be public or private. If you choose private it can only be viewed by other users on the service that you have selected as friends.
Once you’ve configured your account you are presented with a dashboard that lets you drill down across three categories that they process your data into which include sport, explorer, and digital. You can visit my profile to follow along as you continue through this post. Each of these categories show the total statistics of all the data collected within. For example sport includes all of your gym check-ins, total runs and steps. Once you click into a category you can then see some of the unique visualizations created around the details of your data.
Note: I’ve created a video tour of the service below
When going into the Sport section, the type and amount of data displayed is dependent on the services you connected as well as their usage. I had a Fitbit Aria scale so I was presented with my last weight which if I moused over saw a nice quick animated graph of my weight over time as well as the difference from my last weigh-in. There is also a real-time age counter that is both cool and creepy at the same time. If you connected Foursquare and check-in every time you go to a categorized gym location you will see those appear. In a few of my log entries I also have the amount of time logged at the gym. Since I recently added the Moves app I believe this time-frame is calculated based on their tracking although I’m also tracking the location in there as well. It can be hard to decipher which app may be providing information when some metrics overlap. I would almost prefer to have them use Moves for location since it’s tracked passively so that I’m not required to check-in to Foursquare to log my gym visits. I’m sure details like these will either get resolved or perhaps we’ll get access to tweak the data import settings allowing us to customize our reports.
Moving on to the steps tracking I had a huge gap in my data. That’s because last year I switched from a Fitbit Flex to a Garmin Vivofit activity tracker. I then installed the Moves app just to see how its data was integrated. Steps are shown broken down monthly into a daily calendar with each day represented visually as varied size and color circles to show a quick snapshot of goals hit or missed on a daily basis and a total step count for the month. Let me expand a bit on device/app support for a minute. Unfortunately Moves isn’t an effective app for me to track steps. One of my main exercise activities is playing racquetball which I don’t carry my phone doing and when I’m home I often don’t carry my phone around so using Moves for tracking isn’t an option for me. So unfortunately steps isn’t an activity I can currently track properly based on the existing supported apps. Third party apps and services support is an important factor when choosing activity tracking devices and something worth considering for avid trackers. Hopefully if we start seeing all activity data within Google Fit and Apple Healthkit, the need for individual device support won’t be necessary.
The Runkeeper data integration is nice. I can see all of my activities for a given month showing individual distances along with a total distance for the month. They do classify all activities as “runs” even though I personally log runs, hikes, and walks within Runkeeper. On mouse-over you can see total length of the activity along with interval data. On click you are taken to a full page view showing all of these details along with a location map of your activity.
The Explorer section provides location tracking broken down monthly and summarized for all time. On the monthly summary page you are provide the details of the location categories as well as names of the cities traveled. Clicking on a month takes you to one of my favorite views where you see daily breakdowns of location activity paired with Instagram and Twitter photos. This is one of my favorite areas showing distinct views both on mouse-over and click for individual days providing a nice chronological visual representation based on Moves data. This page also displays monthly steps and a map with colored dots showing all the locations visited. I really like this page but would like the option to remove my Twitter photos from appearing here. I often use Twitter to share screenshots which have no relevance to location data and that content isn’t relevant here.
The Digital section isn’t very compelling at the moment. It just shows some basic stats about your Twitter and Instagram accounts along with the top photos shared based on likes and displays your most recent photos.
The last area of the service is the weekly reporting section which was one of the features that the community voted on adding. This page displays highlights and summaries from all three sections with some different visualizations. This is the first area where I see my RescueTime data included but it’s just a simple bar graph without much information. The steps for the week have a slightly different visual and also provide a message based on the total. In my case it stated “Low, more walking recommended” but as previously discussed it’s not importing my Garmin data and I’ve only recently installed the Moves app.
Everything I’ve covered so far is part of the free service but they also provide a pro account which for $7 a month will add special themes, the use of a custom domain and early access to new features.
(I recommend viewing full screen here)
Gyroscope is an interesting new entrant in the quantified self / lifelogging service aggregation category. I find Gyroscope to be somewhere in between TicTrac and Vizify which are two services I really like. TicTrac supports a huge array of devices and services and differs in that it also allows you to manually supplement the data that is imported with personal tracking metrics. It also provides some additional tools to compare data. Vizify (which is no longer after being acquired by Yahoo) allowed you to connect services to provide an interactive biographical infographic automatically from analyzing the data. For example it provided your top 10 favorite foods based on Foursquare restaurant check-ins. I think Gyroscope is poised to become an interesting hybrid of these two services and I’m looking forward to re-capturing the functionality lost from Vizify.
This is a nice initial launch and there is no denying its distinction with a beautiful user interface and visuals created by this talented team. I’m looking forward to support for more devices and services as well as additional data summaries and insights. It will be nice to see the addition of sleep, and other metrics being incorporated. Perhaps many of these data points and others will start to appear in Google Fit and Apple Health Kit making it less of an issue for services like Gyroscope and others to continue maintaining support for so many individual API’s. This is definitely a service I’ll be watching as they evolve moving forward.
- Hacker News discussion thread
- Product Hunt page
- Jyri Engeström on why he invested in Gyroscope
- TechCrunch review
- Gyroscope Blog