We've seen heart rate monitoring sports bras before but nothing like this. The Keep Beat bra, designed by Northumbria University student Victoria Sowerby, tracks your BPM while you're running and actually alters the BPM of your music tracks if you're not hitting your target pace.
It's like having a chest strap built in to your regular training gear and Virtual DJ getting all warpy in your ears. We can't wait to stick Barry White on and then run too slowly.
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Sowerby used a fabric named Eurojersey for the Keep Beat bra prototype, it's designed to be high performance with a special polymer that "accelerates the evaporative process" so it's thermoregulating and won't trap sweat or bacteria.
She told Wareable that the Keep Beat measures your heart rate using electrodes located in the elastic of the bra. "The monitor I used in the Keep Beat bra is as effective as any chest strap monitor," she said. "The closer the sensor is to the heart, the more precise the reading.
The electrodes used to pick up the pulse are located in the elastic of the bra and make contact with the skin just under the bust. The clip on transmitter that contains the Bluetooth chip unclips when you need to wash the bra, so it is completely washable."
The heart rate data is then transferred to a smartphone which can be neatly stored in a pocket round the back of the bra, between your shoulder blades. The ideal set up includes wireless headphones but all the music tweaking takes place in a proprietary smartphone app.
Sowerby's collaborator, electronics technician James Thomas, hacked the Bluetooth heart rate sensor to allow Keep Beat's unique feature.
"[Thomas] re coded the sensor to effect the playback of MP3s on Android," Sowerby told Wareable. "He also helped me with the coding of the app and was a very important collaborator."
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There's a few running wearables in the pipeline which promise to match your music to your pace, but this is an interesting alternative take, flipping this idea on its head. The important thing is to keep the correct pace and in the heart rate zones you're aiming for and the Keep Beat should help you to do this without the need to check running watches or have an app like Jabra's, hooked up to its Pulse Sport, keep instructing you to slow down.
The heart rate tracking itself could be more accurate than fitness bands like the Fitbit Charge HR or HRM in-ears like Jabra's. And the printed side panels, designed to represent city lights, make this more than just a tech bra, it's a good-looking sports bra too.
Sowerby is one of just three students on Northumbria University's new Performance Product Design course. It's not clear yet whether she is looking to sell a final version of the Keep Beat bra anytime soon though she has just landed a job with Puma where she hopes she will have "the chance to pitch Keep Beat to the right people". We'll keep you posted.