Wearables, a term that came into prominence over the last two years, is all the rage at the moment. These little electronic devices are worn by technology buffs and enthusiasts alike, and at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, a good number of new models, variations and designs were unveiled. IT News Africa takes a look at seven new wearables introduced at this year’s show that sparked interest and awe alike.
1. Sony Core
During Sony’s keynote, Mobile president and CEO Kuni Suzuki unveiled what he called “the tiniest gadget Sony has ever made”. The Core is a life-tracking wearable, and is very similar to the hugely-popular FitBit. It can be worn in a SmartBand (which is available in a variety of colours) or clipped onto any piece of clothing to monitor the users activities. It makes use of Sony’s LifeLong app to translate raw data into useable information for the wearer. The waterproof device tracks a user’s heart-rate, steps taken and exercise route, and displays the information in the app. But it’s not only for when the user is active, as it can track sleeping patterns, photos taken, your music, and it also tracks how often users interact with particular friends. The device connects to a user’s phone via Bluetooth, and “occasionally sends sensor data updates to the phone at which point it gets mashed together with all that social and entertainment information to complete Sony’s complete lifelogging package”.
2. LG LifeBand Touch
Similar to Sony’s Core, LG’s first steps into the world of wearables is also a wrist-worn band that comprises an OLED touchscreen display that provides exercise data such as speed and distance covered, as well as calories burnt during a routine. In an effort to save a bit of battery power, the screen is constantly turned off, and only switches on when the user turns their wrist to view the time. Taking it a step further, the device serves as a one-stop shop for viewing missed calls and messages. It also controsl the music that the user is listening to via their smartphone. Tim Alessi, LG Electronics USA’s director of new product development, described the LifeBand Touch as “a physical activity-tracking wristband designed to monitor and collect fitness data during exercise or just everyday life.” The company also unveiled a new pair of Heart-Rate monitor earphones, which tracks a user’s heart rate while providing them with their favourite music and phone functionality. Naturally, the LifeBand Touch and the Heart-Rate monitor earphones can work in tandem with a user’s smartphone.
3. Intel’s Smart Earbuds
Sticking to the music and fitness theme, Intel unveiled their pair of Smart Earbuds, which have heart rate monitors inside earpieces. As the user works up a sweat, data is sent to a smartphone companion app to be analysed by the user. While pumping music through the little device, the earbuds can also predict if the user is slacking off or exercising too hard and adjusts the music accordingly. According to Indira Negi, who invented the earbuds, “the built-in music coach won’t change songs too abruptly, even if your heart rate does fluctuate a bit. Rather, you’d get a warning and then, if you still weren’t reaching your target heart rate, the app would switch to slower-tempo songs,” But users hoping to tuff their ears with the latest technology from Intel may have to wait a while longer, as Negi couldn’t give details on a possible release date, but did mention that Intel was working with different partners to get the device onto the market as quickly as possible.
4. Liquid Image’s Apex HD+ camera goggles
Being awarded CES’ Best of Innovations last year, the company returned to the annual technology expo with a better and updated product. Targeting snowboarders, the Apex HD+ is a pair of highly-advanced snow goggles – with Full HD video recording capabilities, as well as Wi-Fi for live streaming to smartphones and tablets. Every snowboarder needs a pair of goggles, so Liquid Image developed a pair and positioned the camera just above the eyes so that it captures True POV footage of everything the rider sees. According to the company, “this new model features an adjustable camera lens within 30 degrees of tilt to dial in the best camera angle for your stance whether you snowboard, ski, or ride a snowmobile.” With the free Liquid Image app for iOS and Android, the camera can stream live view, let users view their photos and videos and act as a remote control to activate the camera. In terms of technical specifications, it can take 12MP still images, shoots at 720P at 60fps HD Video, or 1080P at 30fps HD Video, and the 135 degree wide angle camera lens. Lastly, it is water resistant to withstand rain, sleet, and snow or a brief, accidental submersion in water.
5. Rest Devices’ Mimo Baby
The internet and wearables are no longer the domain of adults and teenagers, but with Rest Devices’ Mimo Baby it is branching out to babies as well. Unveiled at CES, the company introduced their internet-connected onesie that will enable babies to connect to the world. Well… not quite, but it is connected to the net. The baby-grow is what the company hopes to be the baby monitor of the future. The clothing consists of two respiratory sensors down the front, which naturally checks up on the infant’s breathing patterns. Just below those sensors rests a clip that calculates the baby’s body position, activity level and monitors its skin temperature. The data gathered by the suit is then sent to the parents’ smartphone in an iOS or Android app in real-time. “The body suit records the motion of your baby so that you can tell how active they are, and with our medically backed sleep algorithms, know when your baby falls asleep, and how well they’re sleeping,” the company explained. The suit is powered by an Intel dual-core Edison chip.
6. Netatmo’s June
Staying with health, which seems to be the major trend for wearables, comes June by US-based company Netatmo. The device is an elegant bracelet that measures the sun’s intensity in real time and monitors the wearer’s total daily sun exposure. Mainly targeted at women, the bracelet is designed in the spirit of a diamond, and comes in platinum, gold or gunmetal colours. Once data has been received, the bracelet sends it to an app that offers sun protection advice based on habits and skin type. Depending on the sun’s intensity and time of day, the app will use data from the bracelet to send user notifications on when they need to apply SPF, wear a hat or put on sunglasses – or avoid the sun completely.
FiLIP might sound like a long-lost uncle, but its actually one of the more interesting devices to come out of CES this year. With a simple bright colour and chunky design, the wrist-worn device is a smart locator and phone for small children. “FiLIP is a world first device which has re-imagined smartphone voice and location technology for children. The colorful wristwatch is a patent-pending marriage of GPS, cell tower location and Wi-Fi triangulation, safely combined into one small device,” a representative explains. The device makes use of three core functions: Call, Locate, Intelligent Emergency.
Call allows kids to dial their parents just as with a regular smartphone; Locate makes use of a blend of assisted GPS, GSM cell tower location, and Wi- Fi hotspot triangulation so that parents can track their children; and when activated, Intelligent Emergency triggers an automatic location beacon, ambient sound recording, and calls each of five preset contacts until one is reached.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor