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Pedometer rewards virtually to encourage you to move

Best of the blogs, Digital Savant

Omar L. Gallaga
ogallaga@statesman.com

I don't run marathons. I like my couch and my bed and comfy chairs, not hiking trails and small watercraft you have to paddle yourself.

But even I recognize that eating Doritos and French onion dip late every night while remaining as sedentary as possible during the day is a recipe for...well, the recipe part is delicious, but the end result is a lot of flab.

So, I tested out Striiv fitness gadget. It's about as tall as an egg and about as thick as a smartphone. It comes with a keychain attachment, screen protectors, a belt clip, a USB charger/cable and a well-packaged box.

The device measures out how many steps you take per day compared with the national average (5,300 steps) and gives you constant virtual rewards for, say, burning enough calories to offset a cupcake.

It offers charts and stats on your daily progress, allows you to select from various walking, running or stair-step challenges and even has a built-in game that seems like a stripped-down, single-player version of "Farmville" set in some medieval land where wild lemurs rule.

The game, I initially thought, was silly and not worth the time. That was before I got completely addicted to it and found myself collecting virtual gold and building new structures all day.

So how does the Striiv perform? Quite well if you're looking for a fancy pedometer and a fitness device that will motivate you with virtual tchotchkes and points. Why isn't it a smart phone app instead? Striiv claims that a smart phone's battery would be compromised by having an app that's measuring movement constantly and that the device's proprietary technology measures steps in a way that a smart phone can't.

That might be true, but it seems that something like Nike+, which is embedded into footwear and can communicate with a smart phone, is even better. As it is, Striiv is a little clunky to carry around, especially if you're not wearing clothes with pockets or don't like to carry your keys around. At least it's light and relatively small.

Competing devices like Fitbit and Jawbone's new Up wristband are wearable and so unobtrusive (supposedly) that you can wear them overnight to measure sleep patterns. And at the same price.

Stiiv's website is also lackluster. Despite the device's urging to connect it to a PC to sync/update your stats and software, there's no current way to view your fitness data online or on a computer. The company promises more games and options will be added, but right now it seems like there are a few missed opportunities; you can't share your data with friends or view it in any other way than on the device itself. You can't wirelessly sync (it's USB all the way), either.

Despite my nitpicks, Striiv still managed to hook me. I found myself taking extra steps or climbing stairs just to see my points stack up and to build up my virtual kingdom. And a "Walkathon" option that takes your fitness points and translates them into donations for Global Giving made me feel like my activity was actually benefiting something other than my waistline.

Striiv could use a few refinements, but it's a good option for someone who wants a simple, encouraging, friendly device for measuring exercise.

Striiv

$99, works with Windows PCs and Apple Macs

Striiv.com for more info

Read a longer version of this review at austin360.com/digital savant