Wearables grow up
LAS VEGAS — Wearable devices are finally growing more sophisticated than the dime-a-dozen fitness trackers we’ve seen in the last few years. Sensors are becoming more capable each year, and now we’re seeing gadgets that are essentially wearable medical devices.
Fitness-tracking has moved from the wrist to the rest of the body, with smart shoes, clothing and glasses that analyze your workouts.
We saw a slew of cutting-edge wearables at CES. Here are 10 that could make a huge difference in your life this year.Credit: Tom's Guide
Omron’s new device looks like a running watch, with its round display and thick black band, but this fitness tracker is actually a blood pressure monitor that lets you subtly take readings without anyone knowing.
I tried on the smartwatch, which tracks steps taken, calories burned and distance traveled, and activated a blood pressure reading to see if it felt the same as having my blood pressure taken with a cuff in a doctor’s office. Just as the nurse's cuff tightens around your upper arm as it measures your blood pressure, the watch tightens around your wrist as it takes a reading. HeartGuide also measures your blood pressure while you sleep, which the company says gives you a more complete data set to give to your doctor.
Omron is waiting on FDA approval for the device, so pricing and availability information aren’t yet available.Credit: Tom's Guide
Willow is a wire-free breast pump that finally allows new moms to pump for their babies without anyone knowing. Because Willow doesn’t need to be plugged into a wall, moms can move around and pump into self-contained, leak-proof milk bags that hold four ounces apiece. With two Willow pumps, moms can pump eight ounces of milk at a time. The Willow app tracks how much milk a mom produces in real-time, so she knows how much she has on hand for her baby at any given moment.
The pumps are pricey at $479 a pop. For some women, though, the convenience might be worth the high cost. I spoke to a real Willow user (who also happens to be a nurse) whom the company brought to its CES booth. She told me that she was pumping while we spoke. I had no clue until she mentioned it. Talk about innovation.Credit: Tom's Guide
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Garmin makes some of the most popular fitness trackers for runners, but the company has never before offered a device with on-board music storage. That changed at CES, when Garmin unveiled its new $450 Forerunner 645 Music, which allows you to store playlists offline to listen to while you run.
I got a chance to run with the new Forerunner, and I can attest that the new feature makes a huge difference. No longer do runners have to bring along a smartphone to listen to their motivational playlists. The Garmin device is a little more expensive than its competitors (the Apple Watch Series 3 and Fitbit Ionic), but the Forerunner 645 Music offers more workout-tracking options than those devices do. Credit: Tom's Guide
Spire Health Tags
Spire’s first wearable was a mindfulness stone, which you clipped inside your pants or bra to track your breathing and help you be more aware of your stress levels. The company’s newest device is more versatile. Spire Health Tags are adhesive-backed wearables that you stick inside your underwear or bra to track vitals such as your heart rate, heart rate variability and breathing. The tags still focus on mindfulness, first and foremost, but are also more accurate for tracking your activity.
Spire eventually wants to be able to use Health Tags to diagnose sleep apnea and alert users who show symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Health Tags are an option for people who work or play in fields where they can’t wear fitness trackers on their wrists. One device costs $49; or, you can buy a pack of 8 for $199, or 15 for $299. They’re available now.Credit: Tom's Guide
Serious cyclists already use a variety of methods to stay safe on the road, but Coros wants to simplify those efforts with one solution: The Omni smart bike helmet.
The Omni’s biggest selling point is its open bone-induction audio, which lets you make calls and listen to music while still being able to hear everything that’s around you (including cars and other cyclists). The helmet also features a crash sensor, which alerts an emergency contact on your smartphone with a map of your location if you sustain an impact force of 1G or greater. The helmet even sports light strips on the back to make you more visible when it’s dark.
Coros will be available later this winter for $200.Credit: Tom's Guide
L’Oreal UV Sense
L’Oreal’s sun safety wearable looks more like decorative nail art than it does a tech gadget. The beauty company created an adhesive-backed electronic UV sensor that you can stick to your thumbnail, in order to measure the amount of UVA and UVB rays to which you’re exposed. Most people know when they’ve been out in the sun for too long, but L’Oreal’s UV Sense gadget detects the invisible rays that can cause cancer and premature signs of aging, even when it’s cloudy outside.
The sensor will stick to your thumbnail for up to two weeks before needing more adhesive, and can store up to three months of data. An NFC chip pairs the sensor to your smartphone, where the two gadgets can sync and analyze the data.
L'Oreal has not yet announced pricing and availability.Credit: Tom's Guide
Solos Smart Glasses
Solos is bringing a Google Glass-style display to a pair of sunglasses to give you more data about your running and cycling workouts.
The Solos Smart Glasses sport an augmented reality display above your right eye which shows you exercise stats from your smartphone. The glasses don’t actually track anything on their own, but they make it easier to view the information from your phone. Internal speakers read out your distance, speed and other stats if you prefer to hear them rather than view them. Solos has made a comfortable pair of specs that, miraculously, don’t look terrible. They resemble a pair of sporty sunglasses.
I can imagine that trying to focus on a small display inside your glasses would be uncomfortable for runners and cyclists, but Solos representatives at CES told me that you stop noticing it after awhile. We’ll have to put that to the test when the $499 Smart Glasses debut this spring.Credit: Tom's Guide
This $500 shirt is a video game controller. Yes, really.
Xenoma’s E-Skin is a sensor-filled shirt — 14 sensors, to be exact — that allows you to control the motion in the video games that you play. In a demo I saw at CES, a gamer wearing an E-Skin shirt controlled the motion of a character in a Dance, Dance Revolution-style game. It seemed like a whimsical and extremely fun way to get involved in a game.
Xenoma is also working on fitness and healthcare applications for the shirt, so that one day you can track your workout stats, and hospitals can monitor their patients. The company is offering an SDK to developers who want to tap into the shirt’s sensors for their own purposes. You can buy the shirt and the developer kit for $5,000 starting in March.Credit: Tom's Guide
E-Vone Smart Shoes
If you’ve ever worried about an elderly relative falling without anyone knowing, E-Vone’s smart shoes offer some peace of mind.
The shoes have a bunch of sensors, of course, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and pressure system. But they will also have geolocation tracking built in. If a person wearing these shoes falls, the footwear will trigger an alert for that person’s emergency contacts, along with the location of the fall. The person wearing the shoes would feel them vibrate, to let them know that the alerts have been sent.
The shoes aren’t currently available in the U.S., but if E-Vone brings them to market, they will cost $150 with an additional $20 per month for the service.Credit: Tom's Guide
Sensoria makes a pair of smart shoes with sensors inside to tell you the ins and outs of your running style. Now, the company is teaming up with Vivobarefoot — the popular running shoe brand that eliminates cushioning to mimic the feel of barefoot running — to put Sensoria’s sensors in a barefoot-style running shoe.
Vivo’s Bluetooth shoes have four sensors embedded in the plantar part of the shoe to measure your speed, pace, distance, how your foot lands and other data points that can help you improve your form. Vivobarefoot’s smart shoes offer the same analysis that other intelligent sneakers do, but now that information is in a barefoot-style form — if you’re into that sort of look.
The shoes are slated for release in the second quarter of the year, but it’s unclear how much they will cost.Credit: Tom's Guide