At Santa Clara's Convention Center, wearable tech had another big day out for the Wearable Technology Show. The show was dedicated to talks from top dogs like Qualcomm and Google, while other companies were hitting the show floor to flaunt the latest and greatest in wearable and connected tech.
There was a lot to see, some of which we'd seen in previous forms, and some things completely new. Here's what stood out for us at this year's WTS.
Smarglasses are creeping back into the conversation - at least in some capacity - and GlassUp is banking on a bright future. At WTS the company was showing off its new product, Uno, which aim to put smartglass tech into a more socially acceptable package. The frames are still bulky but we reckon, best case scenario, you could pass them off as hipster specs. That's why they make our list of showfloor favs: they're some of the least conspicuous smartglasses we've tried on so far.
Unfortunately we weren't blown away by what they actually do, but we think they're hitting some good ideas. While we were expect the entire lenses to come alive, they're more akin to Google Glass, with all information beamed to a small square in the corner of one side. The idea is that information is fed from the accompanying smartphone, but remains simple with its monochromatic display and low density of information.
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There's no camera - the developers told us this was a decision to protect privacy - but there are some good applications already running on Uno, such as a program called Uno Hear that lets hearing impaired people to see text of the conversation on screen, and a real-time translator. The open-source SDK will hopefully get people building interesting projects for Uno. We like a lot of the ideas, but reckon it still has some way to go. Early adopters can grab a pair for €399 (global prices to be announced) when they ship this November.
We've became interested in what Zikto was up to when we heard it had made a device for improving posture that could sit on your wrist. At WTS we got to see the finished product, although we're yet to take it for a proper test. The wearable uses a combination of sensors to detect if you're slouching or walking with your hands in your pockets - and will tell you off for doing so. It will also scold you for walking while using your phone, but only if you wear it on the same hand you tend to text with. So yes, you can cheat it, but that's not really the point.
Walking with good posture will earn you a good score at the end of the day, and Zikto tells us that it's teamed up with outlets in South Korea to reward users with free coupons for maintaining excellent posture. The band can also be used to detect and improve posture and technique in baseball, both pitching and batting. Zikto is currently shipping worldwide.
Now, on the face of it, PulseOn sounds pretty dry: a white-label heart rate monitor that other companies can license for their own tech. Yawn. But it's the potential of this that makes it quite interesting. Many companies are fitting their own optical heart rate trackers into wearables right now; in fact, HR tech is pretty standard now, yet we continually come up against the problem of accuracy in optical heart rate monitors compared to more robust options.
PulseOn claims to have done a lot of homework and come up with an optical monitor that's much more accurate than what else is out there. Much more so than the first Apple Watch, one rep told me, so we're glad to hear that at least. You can read more of the background science here, and while we can't vouch for its accuracy until we try it out, we're glad to see people trying to improve HR tech. By making this available to other companies, we'll hopefully see the bar being raised.
We've talked about Vuzix before, but the company was at WTS to show off its latest model, the M300. The new glasses are built to be open to more industrial, medical, retail and business uses, also offering a more ergonomic design. Even if they're only targeting enterprise for now, we think Vuzix is offering a lot of promise for this niche category right now. It's not a surprise that Vuzix reminds us so much of Google Glass, and in fact the company revealed Google approached it during the early stages of Google Glass to propose a partnership - but it didn't happen in the end.
Vuzix tells us it's sold 10,000 units so far, with its biggest use case currently engineers. It's interesting to see how Vuzix has endured - 15 years in the business - where other similar products have failed, and although it's still targeting the workplace, there's no doubt more consumer-facing products can learn a thing or two from Vuzix.
The ActivBody is a device that can be carried on your person at all times, and lets you carry out a variety of different exercises - core training, stretches etc - wherever, whenever through different games. It also tracks your progress and give you updates on how you're doing.
So it essentially works like a fitness tracker, but lets you carry out a wider range of exercises wherever you are without special equipment beyond the device itself, which looks like a large pebble.
We were impressed with the first iteration of Beddit's sleep tracker, and the company has come a long way since, showing off the Beddit 3 at WTS. Beddit has even got Apple's stamp of approval, as the only sleep monitor now sold in Apple Stores. Beddit's premise is simply this: the sleep tracker on your wrist is really just making educated guesses, and much of the science. Beddit aims to be more accurate and useful as a tracker you place directly onto your mattress, beneath the sheets, which then logs and compiles your data using a ballistocardiography sensor (BCG) that looks at your heart's behaviour, not just your body movements.
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The information is then fed back to you with advice on how to improve your quality of sleep. The device costs $149, but for an added $149 Beddit's also offering a 'Sleep report' that provides much more in-depth data you can share with your doctor or fitness coach.