Mind Smarts You'd be hard-pressed to find a more precise metric than life even a quantifiable one. The idea of a quality score has been around since the 1600s, and historians believe it originated with Nicolas 1 st, scion of the Charlemagne family, who in the 1630s documented the many virtues of one of his estates. But few have measured their qualitative elements since. Now, tech start-ups and pioneering data visualization companies are in the process of creating their own, as Baby Boomers move toward that gray state in their lives. The results: older people, many of them already obsessive about this or that metric, are increasingly inclined to put historical models of quality into practice. (Read "Incoming: The Age of the 70-Year-Old.")
3-DTV When it comes to life, technology is flexible: perhaps less so when it comes to character. "The previous revolution in technology was all about bringing stuff closer to us," says Mike Hill, CEO of social data analytics company BigOven. "The new revolution is how to take what we already have and make it more valuable."
The trend may be most visible in 3-D technology. 3-DTV was introduced in 1997 to great fanfare but failed to catch on. But over the past decade, 3-D devices have fallen from early popularity and moved to cheaper televisions. To attract both the early adopters and the masses, many 3-D devices have been designed to include proprietary audio signals and 3-D glasses, which command an extra price tag. (Read "Is Anyone Really Watching 3-D?")
Hill says these platforms are ideal for conversations about values. "Instead of people talking about the fact that 3-D has failed, they can talk about why it failed." And so it has. One reason 3-D technology is unpopular, says digital storytelling company Trendrr's president, Eric Hattingh, is because it works only when a viewer is sitting near a television screen. When it works with a smartphone or tablet, as a new crop of devices is set to do, video platforms will likely bounce and change form, as well. Hattingh imagines people watching 3-D films in their spare time, but watching the same parts of films three times while simultaneously watching people with a smartphone in their lap. "When we try to do real meaningful conversations," says Hattingh, "the hardware is not going to let us do it."
Health Care Just as large and puristic as the science of quality in life is healthcare. Previously, the government only offered a one-size-fits-all plan. Today, as more states have moved to expand Medicaid eligibility, the federally run HealthCare.gov website hosts data about the most commonly ordered prescription drugs and procedures, including body mass index, glucose levels and vital statistics. The privacy of the records is secure, says a HealthCare.gov spokesperson, though if users don't want their records to be seen, they can clear their search options. (Read "Surprisingly Low Rates for High-Deductible Health Plans.")
But HealthCare.gov doesn't offer a "quality" score like at Fitbit. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' publicly available Care.gov site doesn't keep lists of doctors that recommend particular treatments or hospitalizations. In the healthcare world, in which one side of every equation is insured and the other uninsured, the default standard is survival that is, something that every organ functions properly.
4-Doodling As an artifact of Modern Life, the quality score is essentially a quick snapshot taken from a zip-camera car in the immediate moment of activity. But age-dependent technologies are beginning to realize the value of this bottom-up way of measuring quality.
More advanced digital storytelling platforms such as Storytelling by Numbers have "total control" over not only how they choose stories but how they are told, says Betabeat's Stengel. They can track the choices and take steps to avoid repeating one well-documented story for another. This is a life-critical decision, adds Trendrr's Hattingh. "That's why all content forms are trying to deliver the perfect result," he says. With traditional metrics the perfect result is a cultural equivalent of perfection, says BigOven's Hill. "We're creating videos about lifestyle, and how people contribute and what influence they have on them. If we're making things better, that's a great world." Tom Tugend/L.A. Times