Fitbit categorizes sleep with cartoon animals

Fitbit is launching a new sleep profile feature for premium members that will categorize users as one of six animal characters, the company announced today. Users are grouped by 10 sleep stats, five of which are new to Fitbit.

The research team wanted to give people more information about how they sleep, said Karla Gleichauf, the senior researcher at Google who led the research for the position. “We were also influenced by some fun things, like game design or the Harry Potter quizzes about which house you’re in,” she says. “People love to be categorized. So we said, ‘I think this is just really fun’ — it’s a different kind of identity for people.”

For example: James Park, co-founder of Fitbit, is a dolphin, says Gleichauf. Sleeping dolphins tend to go to bed at varying times, going to bed late, and taking a lot of naps. However, when they sleep, it is very soothing. “These are people who have a lot of room for improvement,” she says.

The feature is similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 sleep coaching program, which assigns users one of eight sleep types — each associated with an animal. Samsung then asks users to start a program to improve sleep quality.

To build the new Fitbit feature, the research team looked at a month’s sleep data from about 60,000 users to create the different profiles, Gleichauf says. The team started with 1,000 different functions and tested different machine learning algorithms to eventually find six different categories of sleepers. (Giraffe, bear, dolphin, hedgehog, parrot, and turtle respectively.) The six groups each have different characteristics, such as the dolphin, which is known for waking up more easily, and the parrot, which tends to have a have a constant bedtime.

The latter feature provides users with information about 10 stats, all of which feed into the overall sleep profile. Five are already there in other parts of the app, such as sleep duration and REM sleep. Five others are new and just available in the Sleep Profile. Those include things like bedtime consistency, napping days, and time for a good night’s sleep.

People need to sleep with Fitbit for at least 14 nights each month to get their sleep profile.

The research team validated the profiles and statistics through two studies that looked at people’s perception of their own sleep, Gleichauf says. They looked at data from 1,000 people who rated their sleep on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index along with the use of Sleep Profile and found that the results matched their sleeping animals, she says.

The team also conducted a separate survey of about 18,000 people who used the profile to check the “time for a good night’s sleep.” The study tracked sleep behaviors, perceptions and habits over a few weeks and used the results to adjust the algorithm for that stat, Gleichauf says. “It really tries to answer that really hard question — how long did it take you to feel like you were falling asleep?” she says. “That’s all new for Fitbit.”

Right now, the Fitbit sleep profile only provides an assessment of a person’s sleep. But eventually, Gleichauf says, the feature could be expanded to give people information on how to improve the metrics their profiles show they need to work on the most. “I think the monthly sleep analysis is key to providing that personalized guidance because it indicates those are the areas that — if you’re interested — you can improve,” she says.

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