In a keynote address at 2017 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank brought out Michael Phelps to showcase three new models of its smart footwear while he talked up a future where apparel would not only read a wearer’s biometric data but make adjustments based on sweat levels.
“Whoever invents the next great t-shirt wins,” he predicted.
With two of sports tech’s past darlings, Fitbit and GoPro, both struggling mightily over the last year and Under Armour itself downsizing its Connected Fitness unit, it’s not so surprising that some of the sports industry’s biggest brands caught less buzz or didn’t make the trip to CES 2018 in Las Vegas.
But innovations on a quieter level continued full steam ahead with much of it again tied to sensors and data collection.
In a blog entry, SFIA’s officials, who were attending the CES show in Las Vegas for the 5th consecutive year, pointed to artificial intelligence (AI), sensors embedded in apparel, the quantified self and gamification as some underlying themes across sports and fitness-related products launching at the show.
“One thing that was obvious throughout the entire show, and not just sports/fitness, was the overwhelming presence of embedded sensors in apparel and other goods,” John Peters, senior director of sales, member services, SFIA, told SGB. “It certainly felt like the theme this year for sports/fitness was embedded sensors.”
One example included Suunto’s Movesense platform, the all-in-one motion sensor that was recently opened up to developers. Four vendors – Ain1.ai, Runteq, SUPA and TriMix – unveiled products based on the technology at CES. At just 1.44 inches in diameter and 0.35 ounces, Movesense combines an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, temperature sensor, heart rate, and ECG sensor in a pre-built package that can be white-labeled and quickly integrated in virtually any device or garment.
“With its well-managed API, these companies can build new sensor functionality to quickly commercialize their own sensor concepts. In a sense, we’re democratizing the development of sensor functions,” said Terho Lahtinen, senior manager, future concepts at Movesense, in a statement. “Companies will be able to generate comprehensive data that can improve athletic performance, spot equipment failures, aid rehabilitation programs, and support virtually any motion-sensing application you can dream up.”
Like fitness trackers a few years ago, SFIA plans to watch the evolution of sensor-tracking items across apparel, footwear and other items closely as the category gets commoditized, and explore how SFIA can better assist its members who are leaders in the space.
Related to the integration of sensors is the role artificial intelligence is beginning to play in the sports industry.
In a presentation at the event, “Connected Coaching: AI Makes It Personal,” Steven Webster, the CEO of Asensei, a start-up of connected apparel that was a finalist at the 2017 SFIA Startup Challenge, promised AI-coaching will be able to guide proper form in activities, as well as recovery and goal-setting.
“This is a new category of product distinct from the connected fitness category of the last several years that includes activity trackers, smart watches, and connected fitness equipment like Peloton bikes,” Webster said, according to Men’s Health. “We believe the opportunity is not to replace world-class coaches with AI, but to instead use technology to give everyone access to world-class coaching anywhere, any time, in any sport.”
Added Peters, “It was interesting to watch a few of our trends identified from the SFIA Startup Challenge unfold at CES – including the presence of augmented reality in team sports from companies like ShotTracker, the role AI is playing in sports and fitness, and even the quantified self.”
AI also provides a way to gamify the user experience and CES saw a number of companies both in apparel, earbuds and other categories take the next step in providing actionable feedback based on user data. Said Peters, “This will be something to watch going forward.”
The following are a few sports and fitness-related items catching some attention at CES 2018:
Black Box VR: Earning the Best Startup Award at CES 2018, Black Box VR is a virtual reality gym which uses HTC Vive, motion-tracking controllers and specially designed workout equipment to bring the VR (virtual reality)-experience to workouts. Wearing an HTC Vive VR headset, users can join games, work out with a virtual trainer, or challenge other players across their local leaderboards. Founder by former executives at Bodybuilding.com, Black Box is aiming to start opening up “boutique gyms” later this year.
Gen 1.2 Head Impact Monitor System: From Prevent Biometrics, the Cleveland Clinic spinoff that pioneered the head impact monitoring technology to accurately detect potential concussion-causing impacts in real time, the Head Impact Monitor System is a smart mouthguard which records data for medical staff as soon as a collision is detected. Sensors measure linear and rotational acceleration, impact location and direction, and counts every impact received. Medical staff on the sideline can be immediately alerted when a severe collision takes place but the data can also be used to review head impacts for later analysis.
Peloton Tread: Renowned for its indoor, interactive cycling platform, Peloton created some waves at CES with its entry into the treadmill category. Priced at $3,995 plus the $39 monthly fee for the livestream and on-demand content, the Peloton Tread has an 32-inch HD touchscreen for watching classes taught by instructors live from New York City. Classes include circuit training, hiking and walking. Weights and mat exercises can also be incorporated. Said John Foley, founder and CEO of Peloton, in a press release, “Whether you want a mellow 10-minute walking class, an intense 60-minute bootcamp class, or anything in between, the Peloton Tread is perfect for you.”
Vivobarefoot Sensor Shoe: Vivobarefoot, one of the early pioneers of barefoot shoes, partnered with Sensoria, a leader in wearable smart technology, to launch a pressure sensing running shoe. Each one of the two in-shoe removable Sensoria Core devices is connected to four pressure sensors at the plantar area of each shoe to help detect forces – like impact score, foot landing and contact time metrics. From there, a step by step natural running transition training plan with AI technology delivers audio and visual information in real-time via the new Sensoria Run 2.0 app for iOS. Said Galahad Clark, CEO and founder of Vivobarefoot, in a statement. “Through our partnership with Sensoria, we are now able to provide real time transition advice to our customers and the visual proof of the incredible sensory feedback loop between your feet and your brain.”
Under Armour Hovr: Representing the third generation of Under Armour’s smart shoes series, the Hovr Phantom and Hovr Sonic are both equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and the capability to track and store training session details directly in the shoe. The modules activate when the system senses motion, syncing with a connected handset. The shoes also contain onboard storage, enabling users to go for a run and later sync results with Under Armour MapMyRun app, and track standard metrics such as distance.
Myant SKIIN: Energous, known for its wireless charging concepts, partnered with Myant on a smart clothing line called Skiin, which uses Energous’ WattUp charging tech to charge the embedded sensors in the underwear. Skiin clothing basically tracks metrics like heart rate, hydration, temperature and activity without the need for a device like a smartwatch. Said Tony Chahine, CEO and Founder of Myant, in a statement, “Our goal is to make it as easy and as seamless as possible for our SKIIN customers to maintain continuous access to vital health information at all times. No other wireless charging vendor had the stability, scale and reliability of the WattUp ecosystem.”
L’Oreal UV Sense: Described as the first battery-free wearable electronic UV sensor, the L’Oreal UV Sense is less than two millimeters thick, nine millimeters in diameter and designed to be worn for up to two weeks on the thumbnail. Powered by the user’s mobile phone and activated by UVA and UVB rays, the sensor translates and transfers data on sun exposure through an app using Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled technology. Up to three months of UV exposure data can be stored.
Sony WF-SP700N earbuds: Entering the wireless earbuds market with the WF-1000X last year, Sony earned wide acclaim at the show for the introduction of the WF-SP700N that it describes as the “first truly wireless noise cancelling sports headphones.” Sound can be totally eliminated in a noisy environment such as the gym while turning on the ambient sound mode keeps the wearer aware of the surrounding sounds if they’re doing sports outside. With an IPX4 rating, the headphones are also splash-proof and can be worn in the rain or sweat upon without being damaged. Said Dunja LaRosa, director, head of Mobile Audio Business at Sony Electronics, North America, in a statement, “Noise cancelling isn’t just for airplanes anymore. Now you can get in the zone with great quality sound – without the distractions – at a noisy gym or on a run.”
Coros Omni Bike Helmet: While offering protection from bumps and bruises, the Coros Omni helmet stands out for its use of bone-conducting audio points integrated into its straps that lets cyclists both hear the traffic around them while listening to tunes in their head. The helmet pairs with the rider’s phone via Bluetooth to let users not only hear music, but get directions and make calls. An ambient sensor automatically adjusts the brightness of its rear light to outside conditions. As an added safety measure, a built-in sensor detects crashes and notifies emergency contacts.
Misfit Path Hybrid Smartwatch: Described as Misfit’s “smallest and most minimalist hybrid smartwatch yet” at 38 millimeters, the Misfit Path tracks steps, sleep, calories burned, and distanced throughout the day, syncing the data to Misfit’s mobile app. Wearers can also set goals, receive vibration notifications, create smart alarms and movement reminders, and control other connected smart devices with the touch of a button. Path also features a non-charging battery that lasts up to six months, and is swim-proof up to 50 meters. Fossil Group acquired Misfit in October 2015.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music: Representing the brand’s first attempt at a smartwatch with music playback features, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music gives users an extra pep in their step with on-device music storage, up to 500 songs. The smartwatch also packs built-in GPS and heart-rate sensors, performance monitoring tools, connected features as well as NFC capabilities for Garmin Pay.
SOUL Electronics RUN FREE PRO BIO: Powered by Beflex Biomech Engine, the RUN FREE PRO BIO monitors running form and provides real-time coaching to maximize running performance and minimize potential injury. The device measures speed, distance, cadence, step length, step width, vertical oscillation, head tilt angle, stance/flight time, shock, maximum leg force, balance, and consistency. Said Patrick Tang, CEO at SOUL Electronics, in a release, “Gait Analysis was formerly conducted with full equipment in a specific environment, but with Beflex’s technology, the technology can now be implemented in our earphones through a method called ‘Advanced Markerless Gait Capture.’
Reflexion Edge: A portable concussion detection machine, the Reflexion Edge measures an athlete’s neurocognitive and psychomotor performance in quick 30-second trials, providing an objective and quick measure to determine if an athlete can safely return to play. Said Matthew Campagna, co-founder of Reflexion Interactive Technologies, in a statement, “Athletes are our primary focus and we plan to protect them by providing a fast, portable, and affordable solution to keep them safe. We recognize that millions of concussions are reported each year and that these are only a fraction of all concussions that athletes face in reality.”
Somnox Sleep Robot: Relies on “scientifically proven” techniques to stimulate certain cognitive functions and encourage particular breathing patterns that allow users to fall to sleep more easily. Users snuggle with Somnox and subconsciously replicate the breathing rhythm of the robot. Soothing sounds such as heartbeats, lullabies and guided meditation can also offer a more tailored approach to improve the user’s sleep during the night.
Healbe GoBe 2: A wearable tracker that claims to be the first device designed to help people lose and maintain their weight by automatically tracking and providing them with their calorie intake and other information they need to adjust their lifestyle habits. In early 2018, Healbe will launch a new health and wellness portal allowing users to share their personal data (calorie intake, calories burned, energy balance, water balance, stress level, emotional state, heart rate, sleep quality and distance traveled/number of steps per day) with trusted nutritionists/wellness coaches.
LifeFuels Water Bottle: The bottle leverages patented dispensing technology to create personalized drinks from the three FuelPods stored in its base. Each FuelPod contains up to 15 servings of concentrated healthy, all-natural beverages. Beverages are created at the touch of a button via the single smartphone like button on the front of the Bottle or from the connected app. After debuting their prototype in 2016, LifeFuels returned to CES with a sleek new design, was honored with a 2018 CES Innovation Award in the Sports, Fitness and Biotech category, and will launch in early 2018.
SOLOS Smart Glasses: Initially designed for cyclists, SOLOS Smart Glasses can now be used for runners as well with tracking metrics like elapsed time, speed, pace, cadence and heart rate. SOLOS also includes the most advanced Pupil display optics, which enable a ‘heads-up’ see-through experience with a larger eye box, enabling athletes to safely access their data in real-time. The latest smart glasses offer new audio features including voice control, phone calls, listening to music and group chat communication.
J Lab Epic Sport Wireless Earbuds: The third generation of its award-winning fitness earbuds, J Lab’s Epic Sport Wireless Earbuds have an upgraded customizable sound and higher sweatproof rating. Keeping the same best-in-class battery life of 12 hours, the Epic Sport utilizes Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX technology, for a faster, more reliable wireless connection up to 30 feet away from your device.
JBL Endurance RUN, SPRINT, JUMP and DIVE: The SPRINT, JUMP, and DIVE wireless earphones are equipped with IPX7 waterproof technology to endure all conditions and weather, and can be safely rinsed clean after sweaty workouts. The earbuds’ form factor provides stability and the safety of Twistlock Technology and FlexSoft Comfort Fit silicon materials to ensure they will never hurt or fall out. Intuitive features including on-ear touch controls directly on the headphone give users the ability to easily control their music and volume.
Photo courtesy Black Box VR: