If you happen to spend all day sitting at a desk, slouching in your chair and tilting your neck down towards your smartphone, the chances are that your posture is suffering.
In turn, you're also leaving yourself open to a raft of negative health effects, such as digestive, circulatory and cardiovascular issues. It's why we continue to see posture training wearables from the likes of Upright, Backbone, and more flood the space. These startups generally focus on tracking your back's movement from the spine itself, though, meaning you're forced to wear some kind of brace or attach a sensor to an area of your back if you want to fix the problem.
It's not ideal if you want to track things discreetly, and one Austrian startup, Stapptronics, is aiming to change this. Its aim is much the same β give people a better insight into how their posture varies throughout everyday activity β but it's doing so by tracking things from the foot, with its Stappone smart insole currently available through Kickstarter from roughly $235.
Wearers simply slip it inside their shoe and receive posture and gait analysis, weight measurements and even notifications regarding potential skeletal deformities.
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"It all started when I felt some back pain back in 2014," Stapptronics managing director Peter Krimmer tells us. "I was in a job where I travelled a lot, and sat a lot in planes and cars. I felt like I had some trouble with my back and I didn't have any time to deal with it β I lived a classic sedentary lifestyle. I looked around to see if there was a solution that wouldn't take much time to get into, but there was nothing really there. At that point, it felt like there was definitely a gap in the market.
"As a team, we later formed some ideas about how we wanted to create a product, but the battery was a key issue for us β it kind of fuelled us to create a device that would allow for tracking all the time. And also, of course, we wanted to find the best place to track movements and activities. By doing things from the foot, we're able to not only see things like the user's gait, but it's also a great indicator of your overall posture."
And after taking roughly 18 months to develop its idea into a working prototype, the Stapptronics team, which includes medical professionals in the field of podiatry, is now ready to bring its product to market. However, as Krimmer tells us, the leap onto Kickstarter is really more to gauge the interest in the company's posture tracker, as opposed to an effort to raise the funds necessary to head into mass production.
"Everybody says they have the best product on the market, but you need to prove it. The Kickstarter project helps us do that, in a way, because it gets the device out into the community. And it also helps us improve; people may come back and say it's great, but also have suggestions for how it can be improved. We know this isn't going to be a Pebble campaign, but it's to get in touch with the first backers," says Krimmer.
And along with financial backing from the Austrian government's Research Promotion Agency, the company is seeking validity for its concept through a study at a US university.
"Stanford have done studies to show that fitness trackers are about 75% accurate when it comes to tracking energy consumption," says Krimmer. "But because we can also track your weight, along with the different activity states, such as when you're sitting down, when you're on a bicycle, when you're running, it will be around 95% accurate. We don't have a study to show this just yet, but we anticipate this will come in around April or May."
We've seen and tested plenty of posture trainers over the years, and the Stappone smart insole certainly brings something different to the mix.
The startup itself already has financial backing, which is encouraging, despite this being its first venture in the world of hardware. And though we can't speak to the technology packed inside the insole, since we haven't tested it, the concept does appear, on paper, to be a strong one for a more balanced, unobtrusive way get insight into your posture.
The only potential stumbling block for Stapptronics is the price. This is a lot to pay for a posture tracker, considering there's a growing number of proven options from other startups already on the market. And while there are seemingly plenty of benefits of tracking things through the foot, the company hasn't yet provided tangible evidence as to why its method of tracking is stronger than the competition.
However, with the project currently on track to reach its β¬30,000 goal, and a study in the works to help prove its method, we're looking forward to slipping the insoles into our shoes and finding out whether they're the real deal.