Although meandering through the International Consumer Electronics Show’s 2.2 million square feet of exhibits in Las Vegas earlier this month was definitely exhausting, this roundup of our favorite health and fitness gadgets is by no means exhaustive.
Amongst the literally hundreds of companies in the health, wellness, fitness, sports tech and/or biometric space, a few dozen ingenious devices jumped out at us. Many are award winners, literally game changers in their respective categories. And while most of the devices could easily fall under multiple headings, here are the eleven emerging trends they describe in the quickly growing consumer health gadget space.
(Pictured: Diamond Kinetics’ SwingTracker system, which aims to help baseball players optimize their mechanics.)
The ReWalk Personal System is the first and only FDA-cleared wearable robotic exoskeleton. Through a wrist-controller, it provides powered hip and knee motion, enabling previously wheelchair-bound individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) to stand upright and walk in a variety of settings. ReSound bills its ENZO as the world’s smallest, most powerful super power hearing aid. Users can stream stereo music directly; and through an iOS app, discretely fine-tune volume, bass, treble and such other features as locating the hearing aids via GPS. iHealth Align is the world’s smallest, most portable mobile glucometer. It plugs right into the user’s smartphone audio jack and (on compatible Android or iOS devices) the app logs readings automatically, records notes about meal timing and insulin dosages, displays historical data and trends, and can share info with a caregiver. iHealth Care Originals’ ADAMM (Automated Device for Asthma Monitoring and Management; pictured) is a curvy, futuristic-looking little wearable for managing asthma. Through personalized monitoring, symptom detection, attack alerts and medication reminders, it seeks to relieve the emotional and economic burden sufferers face.
The product of a French consortium, Cityzen Sciences' D-Shirt S (pictured) is embedded with sensors to monitor such data as temperature, heart rate and speed; and provide athletes at all levels with real-time coaching. Emiota’s Belty not only counts steps, but takes steps to make wearers more comfortable, by automatically tightening or loosening when they stand or sit. If inactive too long, it gives a vibrational nudge to move about. The Bluetooth-enabled Pacif-i pushes baby’s temperature wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet, where parents can track trends and medications’ effects. Secondarily, the app can help locate the pacifier and send an alert if it begins to stray. Another take on wireless temperature tracking, Temptraq is the only wearable, wireless, continuously monitoring intelligent thermometer. This soft, flexible, disposable patch—about the size of a few bandage strips side-by-side and currently under FDA premarket review—sends data to an app, which allows parents to track multiple thermometers, quickly notice fluctuations and share recorded info with family and caregivers via email.
Consumer Physics’ tiny SCiO (pictured) is the world’s first affordable, palm-sized molecular scanner. Using a near-IR spectrometer, it identifies the chemical make-up of physical materials. Although not a medical device, it can authenticate medications, relay a food’s nutritional facts, assess a plant’s health and much more. The Qardio Core forgoes sticky pads and wires, while offering medical-grade electrocardiogram monitoring. Additionally, it tracks heart rate variability, body temperature, galvanic skin response (stress levels) and step count. Especially for those with increased health risk, this is valuable data—which can then be automatically shared with family and doctor. Brookstone’s Perfect Bake system nixes the need for measuring cups. Would-be chefs simply pour ingredients into a mixing bowl on the smart scale and its connected app tells the user when to stop. It automatically creates recipes based on a list of ingredients on hand and scales the recipe’s ingredient quantities based on the batch amount. Without pressing a power button or any programming, the Blast Motion sensor automatically tracks key real-time metrics (hang time, rotation, acceleration) and then overlays them on synchronized videos. So both traditional and extreme athletes can precisely quantify (and share) what they did as they watch the action unfold in personal highlight reels.
The GENiSYSS DNA Vault is a hybrid time capsule that stores digital records (medical, audio, images and video) in flash memory, alongside actual physical (blood/DNA) samples. It’s a complete personal snapshot for families, with both sentimental and practical medical applications. The Grush Bluetooth-enabled, motion-sensing toothbrush helps kids visualize and engage in brushing. Interactive games rope them in, then feed parents stats about technique and consistency. The sleek, minimalist Moneual VR Road Cycle utilizes actual street level images to simulate a realistic 3D cycle-scape. Riders can race online, customize routes and monitor their real-word fitness. Backyard Sports, more than just a reignited video game franchise, helps kids get real-world exercise (pictured, with Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen). Actually shooting hoops or hitting a ball with fun accessories (that track those activities) translates into virtual rewards, in the form of outlandish special abilities gained by their characters back in the video game.
Through animation and graphs, Diamond Kinetics’ SwingTracker system is laser-focused on helping players understand and optimize their bat swing mechanics. Four major swing components (each with subcomponents) are analyzed from over 11,000 data points per second. Epson’s upcoming M-Tracer MT500GII does something similar for the golf swing, capturing the club speed, path and angle of attack. The app and Web portal offer stats and 3D swing reviews, for duffers to monitor their improvement. Beyond baseball and golf, some new activities are gaining traction in trackability. The Bluetooth yoga SmartMat gives personal, real-time feedback on pose alignment, based a particular user’s body and abilities. In addition to accurately measuring jump heights in sports like basketball, volleyball and BMX, the Vert tracks frequency and intensity. So athletes can minimize their risk of injury. A couple of new tennis devices: iSetWatch lets players score games right on their wrist, and then share those scores with their phone, another iSetWatch or even over the Internet for coaches, friends and parents to see. Sony will be releasing its Smart Tennis Sensor (pictured), which tracks swing speed and type; ball speed, spin and impact spot. Players can record video in Live mode to synch/display shot stats in playback; or save battery by recording up to 12,000 swings in Memory mode and importing them later to a phone/tablet.
Wired to each other but wire-free to a music player, Jabra’s secure, comfy, durable Sport Pulse Wireless earbuds feature a built-in heart rate monitor and work in conjunction with several popular fitness apps. Their own dedicated companion app helps exercisers plan, monitor and evaluate performance, with in-ear coaching. Parrot’s Zik Sport will offer similar features in a light, stable, stylish and comfortable headband form factor. They’ll also allow users to variably adjust the amount of active noise cancellation—or conversely channel in ambient noise, so the wearer can be more aware of their surroundings. Other advanced features include fancy digital signal processing and (through their proprietary app) run style analysis. The Bragi Dash (pictured) ambitiously aims to do much of what those first two do, but in a totally wireless stereo earbud form factor...that manages to squeeze in 4 GB of built-in memory and touch controls! In a less active vein, SleepPhones Effortless are also totally wireless. This new iteration of the trademark cozy fleece headband with flat built-in speakers now features induction charging on a decoratively designed stand.
Dubbed "the world's first smart bed," the ReST Bed’s pressure-sensitive fabric automatically responds to the sleeper’s body. Using a built-in microprocessor, silent pump and multiple air chambers, it adjusts to various pressure points throughout the night. It also tracks sleep data, which it displays on an included tablet. The ResMed S+ uniquely monitors breathing and movement without any straps, pads or electrodes. It unobtrusively beams low power radio waves to detect sleep patterns. It lulls the user to sleep with specifically designed audio synched to their breathing, gradually slowing down. Throughout the night, it monitors the bedroom environment, collecting stats to help improve sleep. And it chooses a lighter sleep stage (within a specified time window) to gently wake with an alarm. The Sleep Number SleepIQ Kids Bed (pictured) offers parents peace of mind, with a dashboard to see how everyone’s sleeping, motion trackers alerting to restlessness and the ability to remotely turn off lights. For kids, the bed tilts for reading or relieving a stuffy head; offers soft lighting underneath; and an app that detects the absence of monsters under the bed.
By design, the Withings Activite Pop (pictured) looks like a plain – albeit chic – analog watch. But in fact, it’s a waterproof activity tracker that automatically senses walking, running, swimming and sleeping and records that data for the user to later peruse—or share in friendly competition with others. A Bluetooth connection to a smartphone ensures it’s always on the right time (zone). And its standard button cell battery provides 8-plus months of usage without cables, docking or recharging. Similarly discrete, the same folks who last year brought us the palm-sized isometric WellShell exerciser this year introduced the Tao Chair. More than just comfortable, fashionable furniture, it’s an ‘invisible gym’ for the living room. Every purposefully tensile ripple in its construction is geared to isometric exercise, all while sitting down. Connected wirelessly to a phone/tablet app, it can both coach would-be couch potatoes through dozens of exercises for the whole body, or be utilized itself as a (calorie-burning) mobile game controller. We’re big fans of the products in this category—designed with a simple, stylish ethos that doesn’t get in the way of their own functionality—and hope to see more like them.
With personalized skin sensitivity settings, the waterproof Sunfriend is "the world's first wearable monitor for healthier, safer sun time." It tracks users’ UV exposure and warns both of too much and not enough natural sunlight—which, for instance, in winter has been shown to lower blood pressure and slow aging. Folks looking to stop smoking have a new friend in the Quitbit Lighter (pictured). This empowering, connected, rechargeable device helps smokers be more mindful of their habit by measuring and managing it. The lighter tracks every cigarette it lights via a safe, powerful heating coil. The customizable app displays trends, lets users set goals, see how much money they’re saving by smoking less and share progress with family and friends. Using a wirelessly paired magnetic ankle band and comfortable textile pressure sensors, Sensoria socks identify and assess potentially harmful running styles. The app helps runners monitor and visualize their foot-landing technique and keep them at a healthy cadence, providing real-time audio feedback. It can also help distinguish in which shoes a runner runs better.
We saw a spay of interesting brain sensor devices at CES. Promising peace, focus and well-being, why not pop one on, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the show floor? The Interaxon Muse purports to train a user’s brain for long-term mental and emotional fitness, by keeping folks calm and composed in the moment with focused attention training. The Brain Tech Melomind seeks to displace coffee breaks in favor of soothing audio environments tailored to match and relax the user’s current mood. And the Emotiv Insight (pictured) monitors and measures cognitive well-being, attempting to increase the brain’s adaptive neuroplasticity capacity. Beyond that, this sophisticated device seeks to harness brainwaves to channel as a way of interacting with software and hardware applications. At the show, folks attempted to drag race remote-control cars using only their minds (and an Insight on their cranium).
Impecca’s The Alert Band utilizes a forehead sensor to detect fatigue several minutes before a driver might otherwise fall asleep. Supposedly over 90 percent accurate and able to last 20 hours on a charge, it reports a fatigue level number (from 1 to 100) and sends real-time alerts via the user’s smartphone. Black Box’s Linx IAS offers real-time feedback on potentially concussive head impacts. It sends alerts, assists in sideline testing and securely shares data via the cloud with family and doctors. Coaches and trainers can monitor and make more informed decisions for up to 128 players from a single smartphone. The Visijax Commuter Jacket (pictured) integrates 23 high-intensity LED lights into the front (in white) and back (in red) into a breathable, rainproof cycling jacket. Most impressively, the lights are motion-activated and self-canceling, meaning they light up and power down based on the cyclist’s natural turn-signal gestures. Finally, 3L Labs’ Footlogger insoles are packed with 3-axis accelerometer and pressure sensors. They charge and transfer data (up to 50,000 stored footprints) wirelessly. While they can be used for recreational purposes, they offer serious healthcare benefits. Examples include the early prediction of spinal disease, dementia and accidental falling, as well as monitoring rehabilitation efforts and exercises for those with chronic diseases.