Update 9/25/23. Have you heard of the Shape Scale? Ads for Shape Scale are all over social media, which is how I heard about it, too. The Shape Scale is a “3D Body Scanning Scale & Fitness Tracker that visualizes fat loss and muscle gains.” The company that makes it says it's the “First scale that scans you in 3-D” which “shows your losses and gains” with “3- heat-maps.” The wording I saw in the ad made me wonder how it worked. In this Shape Scale review, I'll share what I discovered about this device. Does ShapScale measure body fat? If you are curious too, let's see what we can figure out about this product.
Other Fitness Product Reviews
1 What Is The Shape Scale?
When you step onto the Shape Scale, it has a mechanical arm that extends and rotates around you 360 degrees, taking hundreds of pictures. This provides a 3-dimensional image of your body. The idea is that by using the Shape Scale at regular intervals (say, every few months), you can better understand how your body is changing.
For me, the confusing part of the Shape Scale website and ad were references to how it gave “access to new localized metrics. No more tedious fat calipers or tape measures or Fat calipers.” Again, I wondered if this machine was measuring body fat.
To get to the bottom of this, I went to ShapeScale.com, which has a handy FAQ page that sheds light on all this.
Shape Scale Video
Watch on Youtube if you prefer.
2 Does Shape Scale Measure Body Fat?
Not directly. Despite the wording on the website, the Shape Scale does not directly measure body fat. So it’s not technically the same as:
The idea behind the device is that as you use the Shape Scale over time, you can see how your body is changing. Areas that are getting smaller are associated with fat loss, while those areas that are getting bigger or more defined are associated with gaining muscle.
Associated is the big word in that statement. Because ShapeScale doesn’t directly measure body fat, the idea of gaining muscle or losing body fat is an assumption. True, there is some evidence for this, which is summarized below, but it’s an assumption nonetheless.
3 Does ShapeScale Measure Visceral Fat?
Visceral fat is the fat in and around internal organs. This type of fat is often associated with diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The idea is that less visceral fat means fewer health problems.
The Shape Scale does not directly measure visceral fat. On their FAQ page they say this: “Since ShapeScale does not use x-rays, ultrasound or magnetic fields to determine your body fat, we cannot accurately determine your visceral body fat as accurately as a DEXA/DXA, Sonographic or CT scanning device may do.”
4 Can It Tell The Difference Between Fat and Lean Mass?
ShapeScale estimates body composition changes over time. It does not do this the same way as other body composition tools. By taking hundreds of pictures, it provides information on how the body is changing.
- Areas that are getting bigger are indicative of muscle building.
- Areas that are getting smaller are associated with fat loss.
The Shape Scale website does list research to back up its claims on the accuracy of 3D body composition. Here's a quick breakdown of some of the research.
Shape Scale Research
One small study (39 healthy people) published in 2016 compared the Fit 3D scanner (Fit3D.com) to:
- Air displacement (The Bod Pod)
- Tape measurements
These researchers noted a “strong correlation” between 3D imaging and tape measurements and a “moderate agreement” with predicting visceral fat development. Having a strong correlation means the Fit 3D Scanner was not significantly better than the other methods.
In another investigation, 3D body imaging technology was seen as effective in predicting abdominal obesity. This study involved 122 men and women. While predicting abdominal obesity is nice, you can also see this with your eyes too.
In a third investigation, involving 92 people (age 6 – 83 years) weighing between 52 -400 pounds, 3D scanning data was not significantly different (that's good) from body fat percentages obtained from underwater weighting, which is sometimes called the gold standard of body composition analysis. In this study, only 63 of the 92 people in this study were weighed underwater.
My Thoughts On The Research
Here's what I think:
Some research suggests that 3D body scanning may accurately estimate and predict body fat and abdominal obesity.
While the technology is probably accurate in many people, when I see phrases like “strong correlation,” “predicting,” and “agreement,” it says to me there will be some degree of error.
That said, there is also a degree of error with bioelectric impedance, which is the most popular way of estimating body fat in most health clubs.
One possible problem with the research is most of the studies I saw involved healthy people. Would ShapeScale be accurate in people who are not healthy? For example, would it accurately predict muscle and fat in people who have:
I'm not sure. I hope researchers will look at this. If it's proven effective in populations like these, ShapeScale would be a very easy and effective tool at tracking progress in clinical settings. For me, this is the most attractive aspect of this technology.
5 What Is Body Shape Index?
Many people have heard of BMI – Body Mass Index – which, in the general population, is associated with percent body fat and many disease states. Body Mass Index, however, is less likely to predict the percent body fat in heavily muscled individuals like bodybuilders and other athletes.
Because of this limitation, the Shape Scale also provides another measurement called the Body Shape Index (also called ABSI). Body Shape Index is a value (a number) that includes BMI, body circumference, and height.
The math is a little more complicated than calculating BMI, but some evidence suggests it may be a better predictor of health -and mortality.
Another study noted that Body Shape Index was associated with higher LDL and insulin levels. Both of these are strongly linked to heart disease and type II diabetes.
Body Shape Index does not directly measure LDL or insulin, as these are blood values. The only way to test them accurately is with a blood test.
The research so far is pretty interesting. Whether or not it's ultimately proven to be the best or not will require a bit more research. Either way, the Body Shape Index is sure to be getting a lot of attention in the future.
Use this free tool to calculate your Body Shape Index now.
6 Shape Scale and White Fat vs. Brown Fat?
We know there are different types of fat in the body. Brown fat, because it burns more calories than white fat, is more highly coveted to have. The idea is the more brown fat we have, the higher our metabolic rate is. In this way, brown fat may play a role in weight loss.
Can Shape Scale tell the difference between brown fat and white fat? I'm not aware of any good proof at this time.
Exercise does appear to improve our production of a chemical called irisin. This compound seems to turn white fat into brown fat. Other research suggests brown fat seems to be localized between the shoulder blades.
So, we know where brown fat tends to reside.
In theory, if the ShapeScale was able to tell the difference between brown fat and white fat, this would be huge. It's definitely something for the makers of this product to take a look at.
The book, The Secret Life of Fat has a nice review of all things to do with fat research.
7 How Much Does ShapeScale Cost?
When I checked, the Shape Scale was priced at $499. The company also offered subscription plans too. Subscription plans provide the ability to have the ShapeScale company store all of your scans in the cloud.
You can reserve a Shapescale ahead of its official release for $349. But this is not the only cost. There is also a subscription cost too.
Update. As of September 2023, this body composition device was pre-order selling for $1799 + a monthly subscription price of $12.99 ($9.99 if billed annually). Previously cited prices ($499 and $349) were not listed on the pricing page of the ShapeScale website.
8 ShapeScale Subscription
Subscription plans might be best for health clubs and personal trainers who do scans on many different people. Subscription plans also allow the company to provide software updates as they are developed. I believe everyone who buys a ShapeScale will have to opt for a subscription plan.
When I checked, there were two levels of subscriptions:
- $9.99 yearly subscription, billed annually to a credit card.
- $12.99 billed per month. This requires a 1-year commitment.
These amounts should be added to the price of ShapeScale.
There is also an all-inclusive lifetime ShapeScale plan, which is $699.
9 ShapeScale vs. The Competition?
As far as I can tell, there really isn't anything else out there like the ShapeScale, in terms of providing 3D visual feedback. But, if you are just looking for information on body weight and percent body fat, Consumer Reports gave high marks to this scale:
This scale costs a lot less than ShapeScale.
Another popular option is the InBody Scanner. This uses bioelectric impedance to determine body fat. So far, no Shape Scale vs. InBody Scanner studies have been published.
10 What Do They Do With The Data?
If ShapeScale stores our 3-D images in the cloud, what do they do with that information? Do they just store it forever? Would they ever share it, for example, with the police or homeland security – or health insurance companies? In other words, could all this biometric data be used to track people? I'm honestly not sure, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt on this.
We live in a much smaller world since 9/11. I sometimes wish we could go back to the world of September 10th, when we didn't ask questions like this. What I can say is that when I reviewed the ShapeScale website, I did not see anything that made me think they would be sharing data with anyone.
If you go to their website and download the Shape Scale brochure, they do say, “we treat your data confidentially and don't share any with third parties.” While this is nice to know, I still had to enter my name and email before being able to download the brochure. Why couldn't they simply permit customers to download the brochure without providing a name and email?
At 11-minutes into this TechCrunch Video, they address the privacy issue:
The idea of naked pictures of people stored in the cloud and potentially being hacked by bad guys is concerning and something each person needs to consider when using this or any internet-connected device. I'd like to learn more about how the company protects private data/pictures.
Hacking notwithstanding, I don't think the company would share data unless it receives a court order – and that scenario sounds like it came right out of a TV show. For now, I trust that the company is in the healthy living business not the data sharing business. If you have found any information to the contrary, share it below in the comments section.
11 Shape Scale Weight
The scale is pretty light, weighing only 10 pounds (5 kg).
12 How Much Weight Does It Support?
ShapeScale can support a person who weighs a maximum body weight of 359 pounds (160 kg).
13 Customer Complaints
From the comments below, it appears people who ordered ShapeScale are having major problems receiving the device. Many customers have commented that they ordered the scale but have not received it. Some comments on this website go back as far as 2018. As of 9/11/23, the company was still taking pre-orders for Shape Scale. Has anyone received it yet?
Here is a snapshot from Twitter May 2019. Read the comments below of many others who have expressed disappointment with not receiving Shape Scales they ordered.
The Better Business Bureau also has several complaints from people who said they did not receive their scales even after ordering it years ago. Fortunately, the company replies to complaints made to the BBB and offers refunds if they are requested. As of 2023, the Shape Scale Better Business Bureau rating is B- which is up from a rating of F in 2020. See the BBB file for updates.
If you have ordered a ShapeScale but have not received it yet, ask for a refund. You can call the company at 833-297-4273. See below for more about the company and their better business bureau rating
14 ShapeScale Warranty
Each unit comes with a 1-year warranty.
15 ShapeScale Camera
The camera is 5 megapixels
16 How Long Will The Battery Last?
The lithium-ion battery can last for 50 scans between charges. It takes 4 hours to fully charge the ShapeScale battery. Charges are easy as plugging into a wall outlet.
17 Is There Wireless Charging?
Currently, ShapeScale does not come with wireless charging.
18. Who Makes ShapeScale?
According to the trademark on the name, the company is Shape Labs Inc. While the company is said to be located in San Fransisco, an official company address could not be located on the company website. The company lists a phone number: 833-BuyShape. An email address is also provided: support@ShapeScale.com .
According to the Better Business Bureau, the company is located at 1900 S Norfolk St Ste 350 San Mateo, CA 94403. This address corresponds to a large office building that likely houses several businesses. The Shape Scale phone number is 833-297-4273.
The BBB gives the company a B- rating. This rating is weird considering the company does not answer complaints left on the Better Business Bureau website. In one of the complaints, an individual (who posted on (10/7/21) claims to have not yet received a shape scale that was ordered on 1/16/18.
See the BBB file for updates.
Recently, the company started a podcast called 20 Minute Fitness, hosted by ShapeScale co-founder Martin Kessler. When this review was updated, the last podcast listed was uploaded on Oct 27, 2022.
19. Contact Shape Scale
The company can be contacted at this phone number 833-297-4273 (833-ByShape). The email contact is support@ShapeScale.com .
Pro & Con
Here is a brief summary of my pro and con opinions. Your opinions may be different.
|Impressive design||Does not directly measure body fat|
|May estimate body fat||Expensive|
|Failure to receive scales ordered|
|Not tested in all populations|
20 Is Shape Scale Worth The Money?
There's no doubt the ShapeScale sounds like a snazzy device. As such, the fitness center or personal trainer who owns one of these devices will be ahead of the curve and sure to impress their clients. Three-dimensional body comp scanners also give impressive visual feedback which is very important at improving exercise adherence and gym member retention, things many fitness trainers/fitness centers struggle with.
On the downside, The ShapeScale is expensive. And there are major issues with the company's failure to deliver products to people. Many have said that they have yet to receive a shape scale, years after pre-ordering it. The website states units will be delivered in 2023. My advice: Wait until it's actually shipping scales to customers before you order. To me, ShapeScale looks like an expensive camera and is not worth the money.