Chips, it was only a matter of time...

In game design, the term 'friction' refers to anything that gets in the way of players continuing to play. A lot of effort is put into reducing friction. It's looked at alongside reward structures. The less friction there is, the lower the reward required to keep people playing. Of course, time plays an important factor too and whilst the power of novelty will keep people playing initially, once the novelty is over, getting the friction vs reward balance is key. This is also true for gamification software.

An example we've often used is fitness tracking. Some of the earliest iPhone apps were fitness trackers and a lot of people started tracking their fitness. They'd strap on the iPhone and go for a run or go to the gym. Then friction kicked in. Fitness tracking on the phone is a big battery drain and phones can be a bit awkward when running too. Seemingly little things start to get in the way and soon the friction out-ways the reward. 

Dedicated fitness trackers, like a Fitbit, improve things a lot. Their battery tends to last much longer and they are easier to carry. By using a dedicated fitness tracker, you're freeing up your phone but after a while, the novelty wears off and friction kicks in again. You still need to charge it. You need to remember it and if you forget it, incomplete data means less of a reward.

Then came the smartwatch. More rewards (it does a lot more than a fitness tracker) and it's always with you. The battery life is still an issue (you need to charge more regularly). So we still have friction.

For a few years now we have been predicting that only when you get rid of the friction entirely, will you see fitness tracker usage persist for long periods of time. We've been predicting that the way to achieve this is by embedding a chip into people that self-charges and lasts forever or several years at least. 

Most people scoff and say that's all very well, but people will never allow that.

In this article from the ABC, we clearly see that they will.

It's interesting that it is the reduction in friction itself that is motivating people to have these chips inserted in them. Entirely voluntarily.

Now, this isn't a fitness tracker, but the principle is the same. 

What will you say when your 12-year-old asks for a chip for Christmas so that they can track themselves? Will you be outraged? Or will you be seduced by the fact that you will have access to that data and you too will know what they are up to 24/7?

It really is only a matter of time.