Remember those crazy 90’s Gatorade commercials where elite athletes were evaluated at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute? Pro athletes were running on treadmills and performing (ECG)Electrocardiogram and VO2 tests with a team evaluating every aspect of their workout. They gave these elite athletes an edge by giving them important data on how their individual bodies reacted to activities and stress. The testing was performed by data scientists and doctors in association with nutritionists. The individualized results provided were the results of thousands of dollars worth of testing and data analysis. Trainers could take this information back to training camp and make these elite athletes even better by optimizing their workouts and nutrition.
Consumer Wearables started to benefit athletes a long time ago when analog and digital watches provided basic information to runners. As technology progressed these watches not only provided information related to time, but they also started to give pulse readings for those athletes looking to keep in a certain zone. Fast forward a few years and Polar and Garmin made GPS tracking affordable and accessible to all. Garmin upped the game when they added wireless chest strap heart rate readings along with desktop and online software that let you visualize your run or bike ride and store your data for analysis.
Since 2009 devices like the fitbit, Nike Fuelband(Early 2012) or Jawbone Up had the public focus on the quantified self. Skeptics say that those devices are just glorified pedometers with some basic sleep tracking, calories burned, and distance thrown in for good measure. Is a glorified pedometer really so bad if it motivates? They provide basic information via the device, computer software and sometimes even apps that can give you a general idea of how active you are on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. These devices can be perfect for the walking club enthusiast, the non-athlete, seniors or the recovering athlete, but the low grade(my opinion) information they provide isn’t going to do much for an athlete who is already motivated to workout each day.
Consumer Wearables 3.0 are about to hit the streets sometime toward the end of the first quarter of 2014. These devices are going be game changing because technology is at the point where the Gatorade Sports Science Institute type data can be gathered and analyzed for a one time fee of $200-$500. It has never been a better time to be an amateur or semi-pro athlete who is interested in data. The data that these devices can collect and analyze may actually help athletes perform better. Wearables will no longer be limited to MOTIVATIONAL TOOL status. The new wrist worn, armband or even headband devices will come with multiple sensors and robust applications that can collect all sorts of interesting data.
The Amiigo($99 to $120 – Pre-Order Backers Only) fitness bracelet was announced in late 2012 and will have a 3-axis accelerometer , pulse oximeter, temperature sensor and be waterproof. Along with basic step counting and sleep tracking this wrist worn device will be able to automatically recognize and learn workout activities. The activity recognition is done by comparing the 3D movements to Amiigo’s cloud database for analysis. It can also count reps and sets for exercises and store that information within an app or in the cloud. The device also comes with a shoe clip to allow data collection for running, bike riding and exercises with leg involvement. The app lets you review your historical heart rate measurements and associates those measurements with the activity you were performing. The bluetooth low energy sensor allows a direct connection from the device to your iOS or Android mobile device. This was one of the first devices to incorporate activity recognition software into the mix. Amiigo is due to be released to Indiegogo backers sometime in the 3rd Quarter or 2014. An announcement will be made when the device will go on sale to the general public.
The Push Strength band($150-$260 – Pre-Order Backers Only) is marketed as a device to analyze every movement you make at the gym. This armband has a small footprint, but provides real data to quantify your gym workouts. Push was built because its creators wanted to give everyone the tools used by elite athletes at reasonable price. The Push team thinks that force, power and velocity are the key metrics in strength training. This device will help athletes optimize a training plan , track their workouts and progress over time and share the information with trainers, coaches and friends. The Push Strength band uses the same measurements pro athletes have used for years. All of the results are scientifically validated against the gold standard in the industry to bring athletes the most accurate information about every rep of every workout. Coaches and athletes can track and monitor each athlete’s training program and modify existing programs to get the most out of each workout. The sensors in Push allow it to track reps & sets, velocity, force, power, balance, explosive strength, 1 rep max, volume load and tempo. These are move data points than nearly any other fitness wearable on currently on the market. This device can actually let you know if you are lifting too heavy or going to light. The device is listed as having a motion sensor and orientation sensor and bluetooth 2.1. An iOS an Android app will be released when the Push Strength band is shipped to its Indiegogo backers in July or August of 2014.
Our personal favorite is the Atlas ($169 – Pre-Order Only) from Atlas Wearables. This is the only device on the list that you can still pre-order until early March. The Atlas will have a “gym mode” that just automatically collects data for reps, sets, resting heart rate, max thrust, explosiveness and energy production for each exercise performed. Unlike the Amiigo, the workout reference database is on the device. That means you don’t have to carry your phone with you to the gym. You can sync the data using your PC/MAC or the mobile app at a later time. As a bonus you can also sync your data to your iPhone or Android device or upload your workout activity to the popular Fitocracy and MapMyFitness platforms. Data is analyzed on the device and exercises are recognized on the fly and your data is stored in device memory. The Atlas fitness band will be waterproof rated to 50m-100m*(based on reaching a $50ok stretch goal) for use in swimming pools and other activities where the device may be exposed to moisture and water pressure. This is also one of the only devices with a large removable OLED touchscreen interface that will allow the users to modify or edit data on the device. The removable OLED interface can be worn on a band around your ankle or on your leg to measure movements that focus on leg movements.
The Garmin Forerunner 620 is the latest GPS running/walking watch and trainer. The device displays time and gives you all the standard information that most GPS enabled watches give. This device is different that the other Garmin devices because it measures several running dynamics. The 620 measures ground contact time in milliseconds, cadence, and vertical oscillation or degree of bounce at a glance. It also compares your data to others in your age range to give you a visual display range of where you rank. When used with HRM-Run, it provides you with your VO2 max estimates. VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen (in milliliters) you can consume per minute per kilogram of body weight at max performance. VO2 max is an indication of aerobic capability and should increase as your fitness improves. The race predictor feature projects your finish time for a given race distance based on the your current VO2 max estimate. The race time is idealized based on your current state of fitness and presumed proper training. The Recovery advisor is a set of features that estimate how much time you need to recover from your run so you can more easily assess how hard your next one should be. The Recovery Time feature estimates your state of recovery immediately following a run and operates in a countdown mode until the next effort. Recovery can range from 6 — 96 hours. The Recovery Check feature provides a real-time assessment of your recovery in the first several minutes of a run.
This device connects to your iOS device via Bluetooth 4.0(BLE).
The Garmin Fenix 2 has most of the features of the Garmin Forerunner 620 and several that it does not have. The Garmin Fenix 2 loses the touch and color screens, but adds multi-sport functionality features to the mix. Garmin is calling it the Ultimate Multisport Adventure watch.
Here are some of the key features:
- GPS Walking/Hiking/Running/Riding Features
- New Skiing and Swimming Tracking
- Ground Contact Time/Cadence/Vertical Oscillation
- VO2 Max Estimates
- Recovery Advisor
- iOS Compatible via Bluetooth 4.0 (with phone notifications)
- Altimeter, Barometer, and a 3-axis Compass
- With built-in accelerometer, f?nix 2 users can even track their distance and pace indoors without any additional accessories like a footpod.
- Scratch-resistant, curved mineral glass lens, and a water rating of 50 m
- The rechargeable battery can last up to 50 hours in GPS mode or five weeks in watch mode
Consumer wearables will only become more advanced and the next gen devices may measure your DNA.
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