The quantified self-movement now extends to tracking even your pelvic floor muscles.  In 1948 Dr. Arnold Kegel invented the famous Kegel exercise, which is essentially repeatedly contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles (PFMs or colloquially Kegel muscles) to make them healthy. These muscles s are important not just for a happier bedtime but also other health benefits, like providing stability to the bladder to prevent urinary incontinence.

But Kegel can get tedious. Combining self-tracking and gamification, the Skea fitbit and app hope to help. Just as Skea shouts out in its recently started Kickstarter campaign: “Imagine playing Temple Run with Fibit. Not with fingers, but with pelvic floor muscles!”

There long exists a variety of pelvic toning devices such as electric stimulationrubber resistance balls. Skea isn’t the first training app for pelvic floor muscles, though. By the time of Skea’s Kickstarter debut, San Francisco-based Kegal trainer KGoal has raised almost $200k on Kickstarter since it launched this June. However, gaming is the crux of Skea from the beginning while KGoal is currently working on incorporating gaming into its design.

The Skea sensor that can detect pelvic floor muscle movements
The Skea sensor that can detect pelvic floor muscle movements (source: Skea’s Kickstarter page)

Now back to Skea – The Skea device, made up of a squeezable pillow with a wireless dongle that can be placed into the vagina, does three things: 1) Squeeze, it will trigger jumps in your game avatar on your phone. 2) Squeeze, it measures your clench strength and gives vibration feedback to let you know whether you’re exercising the right muscles. 3) Of course, the app can track the performance pf your PFMs overtime.

The idea of gamification is to take aspects of gaming (rewards like points, badges, levels etc) and apply it to non-game contexts to raise user engagement, in this case, motivating people to practice Kegel. Although a lot of gamified designs incorporate points and badges, experts on gamification Mary Matthews and Alex Fleetwood believe that they are not the only aspects of gaming (NESTA report, cited by Wired). Designers should explore more innovative ways of play. Skea already proposed some interesting ideas on top of its current design to potential backers, such as adding a social/sharing feature and turning the gadget into a remotely-controlled vibrator.

A product by Linkcube, a wearable electronics studio in Beijing, Skea has a  team of gynecologists and says that its design follows strict ergonomics to ensure comfort and safety. Founder Tom Chen is a financial professional-turned hardware maker with a physics degree. Let’s stay tuned for this race of gamifying Kegel.

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.

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