A New View on Wearable Fitness Trackers: Finding Motivating Factors Behind Fitness, Fashion & Technology


USC CBC Case Study: VSP Global and Level TM Smart Glasses


VSP Global, the only national not-for-profit vision benefits company that provides access to eye care for its 88 million members around the world through a network of 39,000 eye doctors. Through its
innovation lab, The Shop, VSP had developed one of the first “smart glasses”—a category of fitness
tracker wearables that Juniper Research identified as the highest growth sector for consumer wearables. Called Level TM , the smart glasses are accompanied by a smartphone app that tracks the wearer’s daily steps, calories, distance and overall activity time. As users reach daily step goals they receive points redeemable for the donation of a free eye exam and pair of glasses to someone in need through VSP’s Eyes of Hope initiatives.

The Shop was seeking a partner to provide academic precision and diligence

to the Level concept and design

while ultimately working toward a contextualized health user experience.


The Shop turned to the USC Center for Body Computing (USC CBC), a leader in digital health research, product validation, wearable sensor technology expertise, contextualized care and social media to support health initiatives.
USC CBC confirmed no academic research existed on fitness tracker motivational factors even though 1 in 5 Americans wear a health tracker daily.

In addition, partnering with USC CBC resulted in:
 A large, diverse population of USC faculty and staff to validate product design and usability and
participate in clinical research
 Recommendation to add a philanthropic incentive based on USC’s expertise in behavioral analysis
on fitness tracker motivators
 The development of digital coach “prompts” to individualize the wearer’s experience
 Strengthening the incorporation of the participants’ social network to serve as ongoing cheerleaders


The first-of-its kind in the category research was published in NEJM Catalyst, analyzing 275 USC
participants, age ranges 18 – 79. The participants were already daily prescription eyeglass wearers who wore their Level smart glasses for 12 weeks – the length of the study.
The cohort also represented a diverse mix of racial backgrounds including: Caucasian, African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and a uniquely large representation of women (61 percent vs. 39 percent men) compared to other wearable fitness tracker research. When it came to health status, the group had an average mean body mass index (BMI) of 28, trending toward non-healthy weight status.
USC researchers found an increase in daily steps when participants received encouragement prompts via the Level app sent by a “digital coach.” This motivating factor was supplemented by encouragement provided by the participant’s social network of support.

The researchers also found higher activity levels were linked to life satisfaction scores, based on an
initial interview survey.
The study also showed that participants were equally motivated by encouragement prompts containing self-focused and altruistic language urging them to meet their daily step goals. After reaching 50 daily step goals, a donation of a comprehensive eye exam and pair of glasses via VSP’s Eyes of Hope® charitable initiatives was provided to the group participants self-selected, either: school-age children, seniors, veterans or individuals affected by homelessness. Participants could track their points accumulation and donations made through their Level app.
When it came to form factor and convenience, participants applauded Level as an activity-tracker
wearable where the activity sensor is embedded in the eyeglass frame, which didn’t require them to add another wearable to their daily routine. Perceived ease of use, such as charging the glasses, was associated with increased activity.

Client Quote: 

“Partnering with the USC Center for Body Computing gave this project a degree of academic rigor and multidisciplinary input that was needed to truly understand this platform. Our team took these critical learnings and applied them to future iterations in the consumer launch of Level.”
– Jay Sales, co-director of VSP’s innovation lab, The Shop





USC CBC Case Study: AARP Foundation, UnitedHealthcare and Lyft

“Study Explores Increasing Senior Health and Well-being Through Transportation”



The AARP Foundation and UnitedHealthcare are collaborating to examine the health and well-being of the nation’s senior population, including the issues of missed medical appointments and social isolation. According to a 2005 study 1 , 4.5 million older patients miss follow-up doctor appointments due to lack of transportation and 8 million adults over age 50 are affected by isolation – which studies show is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
To deepen our collective understanding of these issues, AARP Foundation sought a medical center
partner that could provide access to senior patients with chronic illnesses as well as serve as a research partner that provides the academic rigor to evaluate both medical visit adherence as well as social activity factors on health outcomes based on free, on-demand transportation access.
As a key partner, USC provides both the patient population and the research expertise to evaluate
access to transportation as a helpful health factor and contributor to quality of life.


AARP Foundation selected Lyft to deliver the study’s rides and turned to the USC Center for Body
Computing (USC CBC), a national leader in digital health research using wearable sensor technology who also offered an expertise in contextualized care and social support services analysis. As part of the larger Keck Medicine of USC medical enterprise, the USC CBC provided a diverse senior patient population, both in racial and cultural make-up and socioeconomic status. In addition, as a sprawling metropolis where driving a car is more common than using public transportation, 25 percent of Keck Medical Center of USC patients travel more than 90 minutes to seek its expert medical care, making access to affordable transportation vital and constraints with family members providing those rides a challenge.

The study launched in Los Angeles with Keck Medicine of USC patients over the age of 60 who require follow-up doctor appointments and expressed transportation challenges to complying with their appointments. The participants are screened to ensure that access to transportation is a factor in missed appointments.
Participants are offered cost-free rides – to medical and non-medical destinations – for three months. They are also asked to use a wrist-worn activity tracker daily and keep a daily log of activity during the study.


While other medical centers and long term care facilities have researched transportation needs and
effects for patient compliance with physician visits, no study has also analyzed the impact of the social activity health implications that the free transportation provides.

The researchers anticipate publishing their final results and analyzed findings in early 2019.

“Research has shown that social isolation has a similar impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. With this study, we are looking at whether transportation is one of the solutions to address the isolation that more than 8 million Americans over age 50 experience today.”
-- Lisa March Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation

“We hope this pilot will shine a light on important issues like social isolation and lack of access to transportation, and their connection with health and well-being. We also hope it deepens collective insights into the ways older adults can be empowered to make the most of their health.”
--Efrem Castillo, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement

“Our mission in this study is to explore whether we can reduce these medical appointment no-show rates and provide a better experience for elder populations.”
--Dan Trigub, Regional Vice President - Lyft

1 Blazer DG, Landerman LR, Fillenbaum G, 1995; Syed, S. T., Gerber, B. S., & Sharp, 2013; Wallace R, Hughes-Cromwick P,
Mull H, 2005

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In collaboration with Proteus Digital Health, the CBC is studying an ingestible sensor solution that can be implanted into medications for a population of USC heart failure patients. These sensors are networked and can communicate with data clouds, allowing for easy monitoring of medication adherence by physicians and patient family members to assist in treatment. Patients are also able to access and manage their medications, steps, activity, rest, heart rate, blood pressure and weight through the Proteus mobile app. The study will analyze the ability of the Proteus platform to be utilized as a chronic disease management tool for patients needing to adhere to multiple medications. Patients in the study will be taking two to three heart failure management medications and we will validate sensor transmission as well as the applicability of the platform for hospital to home transition care. 

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Biogram: Social Media Meets Contextualized Health

We have created a mobile app on Apple's ResearchKit to study engagement with biometrics and social media. The app leverages the ubiquitous trend of photo-sharing to learn how heart rate and other biometrics influences relationships in a social community. Users  embed heart rate data into a photo that is then shared with the Biogram audience and community.  Join us. Learn yourself and learn others through the power of narrative, experience, emotion and health. 

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Alivecor: The Best Stories Come From The Heart

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