Following Thanksgiving dinner, my sister texted me to inform what she thinks the “dumbest invention” on the market: connected home fitness equipment Mirror.
“I can’t believe people buy it,” she wrote. “Just buy a CD or watch a program online. Sheesh.”
I tried to convince her otherwise. I noted the device’s unique aspect ratio (which lets one see their full reflection while exercising), wide array of fitness modalities (yoga, cardio, barre, meditation, etc.), and one-on-one interactive training. She remained unimpressed.
“Shouldn’t need to spend 2K on it,” she retorted. “Real men/women use a real mirror and don’t need some old fart watching their form while they exercise. People are stupid!”
(I love my sister by the way.)
However, when I mentioned that it might one day utilize its two-way technology for other uses, like say virtual doctor appointments, she seemed mildly interested. “Really?” she softened. For a moment, she reconsidered her stance. But then just as quick, she decided, “still stupid! I have a camera on my laptop!”
Indeed, Mirror is one of the few fitness technology companies that boasts wildly polarizing views: celebrities and workout addicts love the device for its on-demand accessibility and compact aesthetic. Others, like the New York Times, deem it the “most narcissistic” piece of exercise equipment.
That might change as Mirror evolves past its workout roots. As I recently wrote for Fast Company, the year-old startup believes it can be the next big screen in your life, right up there beside the iPhone and TV. In fact, it plans to expand into family fun games, e-commerce, and thereafter, telehealth. Can it shift public (or heck, even my sister’s) perception? Read the full story.
In other news: If you enjoy Well To Do, please do share and spread the word! —Rina Raphael
News & Trends:
Most abandon mental health apps after a few weeks: They’re the new fitness trackers, shoved away for eternity in a kitchen drawer. (New Scientist)
Fresh food vending machines will be graded like restaurants: Salad machines will be subject to health codes. (NYT)
Self-care market poised for brick-and-mortar growth: Self-care is leading retail transformation, with an emphasis on bath / shower, supplements, skin care, and family planning. (Progressive Grocer)
A more realistic sex toy? Sex tech startup Ose, which caused a ruckus at last year’s CES, launched its debut product: a hands-free device that mimics the experience of being with a human partner. (CNET)
Death rates for middle-aged Americans increasing: Across all racial and economic lines, middle-aged Americans are increasingly dying from preventable causes such as drug overdoses, alcohol, and suicide. (NBC News)
Meanwhile, 1 in 5 U.S. teens has prediabetes: The good news? It can be reversed. (U.S News)
Express launches new comfort and wellness brand: The mall staple expands into outdoor lifestyle with a new DTC brand hawking hoodies, sweats, and sleepwear. (Bustle)
Is the food packaging industry ready to address toxic chemicals? New studies find that a large portion of compostable and paper food packaging is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals. (Civil Eats)
Better-for-you booze market grows: Fermented Sciences, the maker of Flying Embers’ adaptogen-packed hard kombucha, just closed a $25 million round. (Food Dive)
Can you have good mental health genes? New research connects DNA to mental health. (Psychology Today)
Nestle gets serious about micriobiome: The food giant is partnering with the Center for Microbiome Innovation (CMI) at UC San Diego to develop “nutritional solutions that promote health and well-being.” (Food Dive)
The $1 billion health tech fraud startup: The new Theranos? Outcome Health, a startup that promised drug companies a captive audience by way of flat screens and tablets in doctors’ offices, is accused of fraud. (STAT)
FDA updates CBD safety concerns, issues warnings to 15 companies: “CBD has the potential to harm you, and harm can happen even before you become aware of it.” (CBS Marketwatch)
The end of rectal exams? A new home urine test could potentially revolutionize prostate cancer diagnosis tests. (Yahoo! News)
Alexa gets more pharma-friendly: You can now use the voice assistant for medication reminders and to request pharmacy refills. (Quartz)
‘It’s sort of the Wild West’: How Instagram influencers are disrupting healthcare
Social media influencers aren’t just shilling cosmetics and detox tea; an increasing number are being tapped to spread the word about public health campaigns, pharmaceuticals, even medical devices. As I report for FastCo, it’s a booming but complicated business: Should people who know nothing of medicine tell followers what to buy or do? Must they have tried the product they’re recommending?
Meanwhile, the healthcare industry realizes influencers are often the only way to reach certain communities. It’s become such a fraught situation that doctors and medical professionals are becoming influencers themselves just to counter what they consider problematic messengers. (FastCo)
The false promise of morning routines (i.e., why everyone’s mornings seem more productive than yours)
"The move toward ritualized morning self-care can seem like merely a palliative attempt to improve work-life balance. It makes sense to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual because you want to fit in some yoga, an activity that you enjoy. But something sinister seems to be going on if you feel that you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual to improve your well-being, so that you can also work 60 hours a week, cook dinner, run errands, and spend time with your family. In a culture obsessed with self-optimization, ‘we are being sold on the need to upgrade all parts of ourselves, all at once, including parts that we did not previously know needed upgrading.’” (The Atlantic)
Watch: ‘Broken’ on Netflix
Netflix investigates the impact of Juul and where the controversial e-cigarette company is headed next. The series pays special attention to the teen vaping epidemic, interviewing high school students who all say the same thing: They weren’t even aware the product contained nicotine. It’s fascinating to see how much teens were bred to hate cigarettes (“so gross,” says one 17-year-old), then took up vaping without even realizing what it was.
Listen: Keto is more than just a diet; it’s a culture
The ultra-high fat, low-carb eating plan is everywhere. It’s taking up shelves at supermarkets, romancing celebrities, even inspiring food delivery startups. How did it become so huge? And what promises does it actually deliver on? Today, Explained tackles the trendy diet. (Vox)
The hygiene culture wars that started on social media
One seemingly innocent tweet about washing one’s legs in the shower erupted into Twitter warfare. Did it, as some believe, demonstrate long-held cultural assumptions on race and class? “The tensions around this topic have revealed who is allowed to live comfortably unwashed, and whose survival depends on hygienic practices,” writes Nicole Froio. “It’s a commentary on who the gatekeepers of ‘clean’ are.” (Zora)
Tweet of the week: