Tag Archives: quantified self

GLAZEDcon 2014: Wearables are the New Black

GLAZEDcon is on at full force. This year’s conference has attracted nearly three times as many people as last year, and features speakers from all realms of the wearables world – from healthcare wearables to responsive bike helmets to programable rings that can be used to control your bluetooth devices. The vast increase in magnitude of the conference reflects the growing interest and demand of wearables to track, manage, and quantify all aspects of life. 

 
Muse is a brain sensing headband and brain fitness tool that helps users learn how to manage stress, stay calm, and stay focused throughout the day. By helping to manage stress, Muse is able to improve the overall health of its users. Muse has 7 EEG sensors that measures brain activity and translates the information into real-time feedback on the Muse app. You can purchase Muse now; ships in 3-6 weeks.
 
UpRight is a small device that attaches directly to your lower back. It trains you to straighten your back while sitting and standing by gently vibrating when slouching occurs. The Company says that by wearing UpRight for 15 minutes a day, you can gradually train your back to be straighter even without the device in 2-3 weeks. In addition to the health effects of good posture and preventing back pain, UpRight also boasts instilling higher confidence for wearers. Their Indiegogo campaign is going on now; aim to ship the product by March 2015.
 
Nod 
Nod is a wearable device that acts as a remote for controlling other bluetooth enabled devices – like turning on a GoPro, or a Philips light, or changing the temperature on a Nest. The ring-like device reacts to different finger motions such as turns and swipes. There are certainly healthcare applications that can stem from such a device – like the ability to increase or decrease the intensity of a treadmill workout or keep count of how many pushups and sit ups you complete in a workout. The possibilities are truly endless. Nod is taking pre-orders now.
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Rise: Affordable and Reliable Personal Nutrition Coaching

Rise is a new nutrition coaching app that makes it affordable to have structured, personal, and specialized nutrition coaching. Your personal diet coach gives you daily feedback and advice based on what you eat and what types of habits you keep. The feedback is tailored to each individual’s changing lifestyle.

The app makes interacting with a personal nutritionist easy. By taking photos of every snack and meal, you are giving your nutritionist a reliable way to shape your diet in real time. The app itself is well designed, although taking pictures of every meal takes a little getting used to. My coach was friendly and experienced. The personal attention I got made me more cognizant of what I was eating and when. After spending several days in Las Vegas and eating haphazardly, her appraisals of my meals made me focus on eating fruits and vegetables upon arriving back at home. The coaching works – and the native interface doubles as a food diary. It’s definitely an app to try on the way to modifying eating habits for the better.

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Wello: Your Very Own Vital Sign Monitor

Azoi, a healthcare technology company, is now taking pre-orders for their first product release, Wello. Wello is a vital sign monitoring device embedded within a mobile phone case. Users place their fingers on the top and back of the case with the screen held horizontally, display pointed towards them. The Wello app displays captured and calculated health stats, which can also be shared with family, friends, and caregivers. Data include blood pressure, electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature, lung function and more. By improving health awareness, the creators of Wello hope that it can help users make more informed lifestyle choices.

According to the World Health Organization, 347 million people have diabetes, heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and hypertension afflicts nearly a billion people globally. Wello aims to combat these trends by encouraging regular monitoring as a preventative measure, empowering users with the knowledge to identify potential issues and seek advice before they become serious illnesses.

Key Factors Wello Measures:

  • Blood Pressure: Monitors blood pressure easily and accurately. More importantly with multiple readings you begin to see patterns that cause spikes or dips.
  • ECG: Takes an ECG reading without all the fussy wires. An ECG is nothing but mapping the electrical signals of the heart.
  • Heart Rate: Measures and keeps a track of your heart rate or pulse. Your pulse provides glimpses into your state of fitness, potential heart problems or other illnesses.
  • Blood Oxygen: Helps measure your blood oxygen levels, which if low can be dangerous.
  • Temperature: Quickly and easily reads body temperature with the welcome convenience of tracking it. So you know how a fever behaves over time.
  • Lung Function: Reads how much air you can inhale and exhale which may point towards possible obstructions or underlying conditions.

Wello plans to ship in Fall 2014, pending FDA approval.

 

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Noom: Weight Loss is Better Together

Noom is a wellness company that recently launched their first iPhone app, Noom Weight. Unlike other food-tracking apps, Pro users are automatically put into a Noom chat group with other users, creating a small community of people who are ‘on your side.’ In the group, you can track each member’s meals and comment on their decisions throughout the day. The community also encourages people to share tips and share photos/recipes of their meals, creating an environment focused on eating well. The simplicity of logging foods into the app makes it easy to be consistent.

The company also has Noom Walk and Noom Cardio – both on Andriod devices, to help track steps and workouts. Noom is great for Andriod users – it combines data on both eating and exercise habits onto one central backend, but for iOS users, Noom Weight is the only app currently available.

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Difficulties in Making Wearables, Because Hardware is Hard

A number of reports on Nike restructuring their FuelBand division came out this past week. The fitness giant confirmed layoffs in its Digital Sports division and as CNET reported, “As early as this fall, Nike planned on releasing another iteration of the FuelBand — an even slimmer version — but cancelled the project. And it appears to have shelved all future physical product projects under the Digital Sport helm, the person familiar with the matter added.” Re/code wrote about the matter on Friday, with their sources saying that “the decision over what to do has been debated for months within the company, due to high expenses, manufacturing challenges and the inability to make adequate margins on the business. In addition, sources note that Nike has been unable to attract as high a level of engineering talent as the business has grown.”

Jawbone’s 2011 recall of its first UP band, and Fitbit’s recent recalls of their Force band are other indications that making small wrist wearables isn’t easy.

Over the weekend, I played around with an Arduino, creating a ‘wearable’ by hooking up a display, 3-axis accelerometer, temperature sensor, vibrating motor, pulse sensor, and battery. With help from the team at iRoboticist, I was able to put together a working prototype. Thinking through all the parts in these devices gave me new appreciation for all the work that wearables-focused hardware and software engineers do – while balancing high consumer expectations (battery life length, water resistance, size, display quality…and the list goes on). Aside from building, there’s also managing the supply chain and handling the manufacturing aspect of the product cycle, which can often be tedious and unnerving.

Here are some neat teardowns of common wearables from iFixit (Fitbit Flex), Chipworks (Nike FuelBand), and iFixit (Pebble smartwatch). These sites give you a great inside look at all the components jammed into the thing you are wearing on your wrist.

The technology here has come a long way. Kudos to all the companies that continue to prioritize and innovate on wearable devices.

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Skulpt: Quantify Your Muscle Strength and Definition

The Skulpt Aim is the first-ever non-invasive wireless device that measures the composition and quality of muscles. When you press it against major muscle groups, the device’s sensors collect thousands of data points to measure fat percentage and muscle quality in individual muscles as well as in the body as a whole.

MQ, or muscle quality, is a measure of your muscles’ strength and definition. The higher the MQ, the stronger and more defined a person’s body is. Recent articles have noted the dangers of being “Skinny Fat,” or being thin but not toned. Time said, “thin people can sometimes carry the most dangerous kind of fat – and not know it.” The Aim assesses the body by measuring four major muscles (biceps, triceps, abs, and thighs), to create an accurate estimate of your total body fat percentage and MQ.

The Aim tracks even the slightest improvements, and shows those results real time on their dashboard so users can easily visualize their progress. In addition to tracking progress and setting goals, the dashboard provides tailored advice, recommending workouts that specifically target muscles that need improvement.

Started as a medical-grade device that has been used in top US hospitals, the technology underlying Skulpt was first used to measure muscle health of patients with neuromuscular disorders. The founders, Jose Bohorquez and Seward Rutkove realized that their powerful and innovative tech could be simplified into a small, effortless consumer fitness device, and the Skulpt was born. Skulpt is a 2014 International CES Innovations Award winner in the Health and Fitness product category and supporters on Aim’s Indiegogo campaign almost quadrupled their fundraising goal amount. You can pre-order the Skulpt today; launch date May 2014.

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Gero Lab: Using Everyday Movement to Predict Risk of Age-Related Diseases

Locomotome, as coined by the Human Locomotome Project is a set of human locomotive data that can be analyzed to predict human stress levels and proclivity of age-related metabolic or degenerative disorders.

Gero Lab, a new and burgeoning company in this space, has been collecting locomotome data to discover markers of age-related diseases and evaluate the clinical importance of these markers. They have an app that collects initial answers to health questions and then uses activity data from devices like FitBit, Jawbone, and Bodymedia to further cement their locomotome models. Users are then sent metrics on their neurological state and potential health conditions, increasing their awareness of various health factors important for early prevention and lifestyle changes.

Gero co-founder Vera Kozyr answers some of my questions below.

What was the driving force to create Gero? What are the company’s goals?

We were originally studying different biological signals including transcriptome and genome signals, looking for signatures of aging and associated chronic deceases. Then we realized that the locomotome signal is extremely rich and much more convenient to gather, so we adjusted all our mathematical models and algorithms for it. The goal of our company is to create a convenient (non-invasive and seamless) and reliable tool for the early stage diagnosis of different diseases.

How can data collected and used in Gero models be translated into action items for users?

Awareness is very important when it comes to health. Early warnings can be impactful, especially for slowly developing health conditions. For example, life-style changes during the early stages of diabetes type 2 can significantly slow down the development of the disease or even reverse it. In the future, after passing FDA approval, GERO technology could also be used by doctors for preventative measures.

What are some of the most interesting bits of data that you have gathered so far? What is to come?

The key takeaways of our first 3,000 Fitbit study (finished in November of last year) are:

  • Motor activity contains signatures of particular chronic deceases (metabolic, psychiatric and neurological)
  • Low-resolution trackers (e.g. Fitbit, Jawbone, etc.) can also be used with GERO’s mathematical model with sufficient tracking time
  • We are already passed the proof of concept phase to detect particular health conditions with accuracy

We keep working on increasing the accuracy of our algorithms. Along with disease risks and trends, we have learned to detect biological age and gender. At the moment we are focusing on diabetes and soon will publish some of our very interesting findings.

How does the app / data interface help users?

As we are still in the research stage we don’t claim that our app helps users at the moment. It collects activity data and helps to develop our technology. Individual health reports that we will release to our participants of course might potentially help by giving awareness of health conditions and showing their trends.

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CarePredict: Monitoring Aging Parents for the Tech Generation

Millions of Americans take care of their aging parents while managing work and raising their own families. These adults are part of the ‘Sandwich Generation,’ and are constantly on call to help ailing family members. One of the toughest and most time consuming activities to do as a part-time informal caretaker is to track behaviors and note subtle day-to-day fluctuations that might hint towards bigger issues. CarePredict, founded by Satish Movva, founder of ContinuLink, is a wearable device company that assists adult children in tracking their aging parents’ health and activities.

The Tempo is the company’s first device, which tracks the wearer’s location within the home and learns their normal pattern of movement. Cleverly named, when there is a potential concerning change to the users daily tempo (in activities such as standing, walking, and sitting), the device notifies all caregivers in a text or email about the discrepancy.

The sensor is easy to wear and detects different motions. This motion data is transmitted wirelessly to the CarePredict beacon, which understands the location of the user and sends all the data from the wearable to CarePredict’s servers for analysis. The data can be monitored from an online account or smartphone app. CarePredict, currently taking pre-orders, is slated to launch next month.

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Pact: Beautiful Redesign Incentivizes You to Keep Healthy Habits

Pact (formerly GymPact) relaunched this year with a new name and new features. The app penalizes you ($5 charge minimum per missed event), for not reaching your pre-set fitness, eating, and diet goals. On the flip side, you are monetarily rewarded for every goal you do reach.

For exercise, you can check into a gym, use apps like RunKeeper and Moves, or activity trackers like the Jawbone UP or Fitbit devices to measure your steps. For fruit and veggie tracking, you take a photo of your meal and post it on Pact to be reviewed and accepted/declined by others in the Pact community. The diet portion requires you to track your meals using MyFitnessPal.

The new app is designed cleanly and is easy to use, updating information from trackers and apps almost immediately. Weekly emails confirm how much you owe vs. earned.

Pact isn’t failsafe and people who want to cheat by checking into gyms they pass on the street or entering bogus meal info into MyFitnessPal can still earn the $0.10 to $0.30 per event – but with such low dollar values, it’s not worth it. With Pact I check my UP steps throughout the day, making sure that I get to 10,000 steps before the day is over because in the end it isn’t earning 25 cents that matters to me, but losing the $10. Pact is slowly changing my habits and it’s a great way to kickstart a health goal.

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MyFitnessPal: Surprising Data Spurs Behavioral Change

As part of Lift’s Quantified Diet Project, I’ve been tracking my calories since January 1st using the free MyFitnessPal app. I’ve previously disliked the thought of tracking every meal and snack, unconvinced that tracking only calories was helpful in a diet plan. After using the app for a month, I’m very appreciative to have a sense of what types of foods I eat, how much I snack (a lot) and just how little consistent exercise I do. And of course my lifestyle is slowly changing for the better.

While calorie tracking seems tedious and the manual entry outdated, the task of consciously knowing what you eat everyday and how much you burn off gives, at the very least, a sense of awareness. Who knew that on average my snacking added an extra 500 calories a day, or that I overeat the most when the food choices are Mexican or Italian? There are over 3 million foods in the MFP database so what you are eating is most likely in there – or you can add it. The barcode scanner takes out a lot of typing and you can create pre-set meals for your favorite/most often cooked items.

During this month, I’ve started to eat healthier, eat less, and actually lost a couple of pounds. For those concerned more about the breakout of nutrition, MFP differentiates carbs, fats and protein along with vitamins. There is no food that is ‘bad,’ but there are amounts that can be. So for now I can still eat chocolate covered almonds and peanut butter filled pretzels (thanks, Costco!) but I’m aware of the extra exercise I need with every bite.

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