What Makes Happy Bob Happy?
By Matthew Garza
The Happy Bob app can make your diabetes data more engaging and rewarding by “gamifying” your glucose values. The diaTribe team tested the Happy Bob app and shared what they liked and what they thought could be improved.
The Happy Bob app is a unique way of interacting with your diabetes data. The mobile app connects with your Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to help you monitor your glucose levels in real-time. It uses several different “faces” and personalized messages and notifications designed to make monitoring your glucose fun, snarky, and engaging.
You can think of Happy Bob as your friend who cheers you on when you’re in range, and delivers sassy messages when you’re trending too high or too low.
In addition, Happy Bob “gamifies” your glucose values by giving you “stars” for keeping your levels in range (72 to 180 mg/dL). You can even earn double the stars for keeping your glucose in a tighter range (72 to 126 mg/dL) You can also set a target number of stars to earn each day – similar to setting a Time in Range goal for the day.
The app also allows you to track your personal stats on a “Scoreboard” and connect with other users in “Clans” to encourage one another and track each other’s progress.
Happy Bob requires a subscription, which costs $5.99 per month or $49.99 for an annual membership. It is available for download on the App Store or on Google Play.
Happy Bob recently announced that it had officially integrated with Dexcom to deliver glucose data in real-time on your mobile phone or Apple watch, moving out of their beta testing phase. This announcement sparked our interest, so three diaTribe team members decided to test drive the Happy Bob app. Here are some of their impressions.
What did the team like?
The Happy Bob app delivers on the fun and engaging side. Diane Scherer, who has had type 1 diabetes for 37 years and recently joined the diaTribe team as the development director, enjoyed the pure creative fun. “When I heard about an app called ‘Happy Bob’ that connects to my CGM and offers jokes and fun game points in relation to my blood sugar, I wanted to try it out and downloaded it right away,” she said.
Her favorite feature was the different “faces” of Bob – called Happy, Snarky, Karen, Cineman, and Frosty. Each face delivers personalized messages with different personalities. “I toggled between [the faces] to see what each Bob says at the same glucose number,” said Scherer. “Some were laugh-out-loud funny and really brightened my day… I liked Happy, Snarky, and Karen the most.”
Julie Heverly, diaTribe’s senior director of the Time in Range Coalition who has had type 1 diabetes for over 23 years, also enjoyed the app due to one of its more functional features.
“I love that it shows my current glucose level and my daily percentage of Time in Range all on one screen,” she said. “Before Happy Bob, I would have to open and look at two different apps to get similar information and there was a two-day minimum Time in Range report. I really love that there is a daily Time in Range perspective.”
Eritrea Mussa Khan, diaTribe’s social media manager, has had diabetes for 20 years. Her experience with the app has been primarily positive. “I found my experience with Happy Bob pleasant; so far my blood sugars have stayed in a good range and I didn’t really feel the app notify me too many times,” she said.
Where is there room for improvement?
Happy Bob might occasionally fall short in trying to make diabetes management more fun and comedic, sometimes dipping into judgmental feedback and harsh language.
“When the stress from work is spiking my glucose, I recognize the challenge and have to wait for the correction dose to do its job,” said Heverly. “Having an app to remind me that the situation is a ‘dumpster fire’ didn’t feel helpful at the moment.”
Scherer felt similarly, “On the one hand, a chronic health condition is serious, but on the other, one can't take their life too seriously,” she said. “We need to laugh to get us through the day. This is what Happy Bob offers… until it doesn’t.”
Scherer noted that while some of the notifications were funny, others just felt judgmental.
“Many of the high number messages had to do with eating or forgetting to bolus,” she said. “That assumes these are the only reasons for high numbers where many people know that there are actually many other factors such as being sick, feeling stressed, or hormone fluctuations that contribute as well.”
Scherer also pointed out some other things that left her wanting more.
“I saw on the App that you collect points, which can be motivating,” she said. “But I think it would be more motivating if this point system was connected to something real, such as if you get to a certain number of points, you get a gift card to Walgreens, or maybe a healthy food subscription.”
What’s our verdict?
Diabetes management is not one-size-fits-all. Each person might benefit from different tools that help them track their glucose and make decisions about their health. While some people may really enjoy the funny notifications and game-like features of Happy Bob, others may be put off by some of the snarkier remarks and comedic nature.
Scherer, Heverly, and Mussa-Khan all plan to continue to test the app to see how it helps their diabetes management.
“I just received a notification from Happy Bob: ‘Diabetes is not the boss of me,’” said Scherer. “I think that is a statement worth living by.”