The week in wearable tech: Lucky Japan gets the goodies

Catch up on the last seven days
The week in wearable tech

This week, as our US reporter Husain was waiting in a virtual line - not a horrid, real one - thanks to the new TapuTapu wearable at Universal's Volcano Bay, I was waiting for wearable tech news.

I just felt like it was time for something shiny and new. With a few exceptions, the world of wearables feels like it has been in something of a lull since the start of the year but the web (and web people like me who populate it) are insatiable.

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And I got some. Sort of. The biggest news of the week came from HTC and its new Link VR headset. It's a genuinely exciting leap for mobile VR too. The Link is powered by a HTC phone (wired, annoyingly) but brings loads of features from high-end PC VR to mobile-powered VR: six degrees of freedom tracking, an external camera to track the headset and two controllers. This is next gen, my friends, if it works.

Plus it's hot off the back of HTC's untitled standalone Daydream headset at I/O last week. The catch? It's Japan only for now with no plans to release worldwide. Lucky Japan with its singing toilets and HTC Link VR.

Still, it's important. It shows where companies like HTC are at, where they think mobile VR is going and what's possible in a comfortable, portable form factor. It bodes well for the future of Daydream and Gear VR too if nothing else. Because if I go to the launch of another colour finish of Samsung's headset, I'll throw a tantrum. More along these lines please, Samsung.

Just as HTC is looking to improve tracking and controls in mobile VR, Oculus has its eye on a huge problem for VR users: focus. This week Hugh spoke to Oculus research scientist Douglas Lanman about the development of focal surface displays for VR. Sounds geeky, and it is, but it's also fascinating, so give it a read.

Focus on Oculus

This week, Oculus also took its multi sensor, room scale tracking out of beta, our top story in Field of view, our weekly Friday round-up of VR news and recommendations. With its lower (than Vive and PSVR) sales and Palmer Luckey related mishaps, Oculus is somehow still an underdog, despite the fact that it's owned by Facebook. And I'm still sort of rooting for it. Bringing things like room scale up to scratch is one way it can keep the momentum going now VR isn't as hyped up as it was last year. It also needs a few more big name games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew - and stat.

The week in wearable tech: Lucky Japan gets the goodies

And now we turn to our Apple Watch correspondent (it's still me) because there's never not news about the Apple Watch. It's not banging sales this week but bossing heart rate lab tests.

Stanford did a study with a bunch of wearables that track heart rate and the original Apple Watch came out on top with an error rate of 2%. Then came the Basis Peak and Fitbit Surge and Samsung did pretty badly. As did calorie estimates on pretty much everything.

Now, we've no reason to query any specific findings based on our real world tests but the problem with lab studies is that they take a while, then the analysis takes a while then publishing takes a while. In short, all these wearables have now been replaced - the Apple Watch has a Series 2 for instance, the Basis and Microsoft Band are pretty much dead and no-ne cares about old Samsungs or Mio bands and watches.

It's a shame as we need this kind of rigorous testing for metrics like heart rate in which companies often use similar tech but can produce very different results. The next study by this team will take the volunteers out of the lab and walking and exercising in their normal lives. I just hope they can upgrade the tech.

Baby got budget

Before I dance off into the sun I want to point you in the direction of UK reporter Conor's #Trending this week. It's a good' un and it's all about budget wearable tech, that elusive species.

We've seen a couple of small releases this week - the bargain Honor Band A2 fitness tracker (China only for now - lucky China), Hong Kong startup UWear's outdoor sports watch and Haikara's style conscious smartwatches that are cheaper than you'd expect. A lot cheaper in Honor's case. How much would you pay for a smartwatch? I still think $200 is about right in most cases. Or a fitness tracker with HR? Those prices are going way down. Finally - I'm pretty sure I wrote an op-ed about this all the way back in 2015.


TAGGEDWearables

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