Weekly Wearables Roundup: Wearables for Huntington Disease, Growing markets, Thalmic Labs, Snapchat Spectacles, Losing Weight

1. Teva joins hands with Intel to develop wearable device technology for curing Huntington Disease

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is an Israeli multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Petah Tikva, Israel. Teva has announced collaboration with Intel Corporation to develop a machine learning platform and wearable devices, aimed for use in curing Huntington disease. Huntington disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by uncoordinated and uncontrollable movements, cognitive deterioration and behavioral or psychological problems. This platform will be used to detect and continuously monitor the symptoms that impact daily living, in an effort to better understand disease progression and enhance treatment evaluation.

This novel technology platform will be deployed for the first time in a sub-study within the ongoing phase 2 Open-Pride HD Study. As part of this, patients will be asked to use a smartphone and wear a smartwatch equipped with sensing technology that will continuously measure their general functioning and movement. These data will be wirelessly streamed to a cloud-based platform specifically developed by Intel to analyze data from wearable devices. Machine learning algorithms will then translate these data into objective scores of motor symptom severity, in near real-time. The study will start towards the end of the year and will take place in centers in the US and Canada.

This technology will leverage Intel’s capabilities in analytics and algorithm development for movement detection, together with Teva’s deep knowledge and experience in HD treatment and research. HD is a devastating illness that is desperate for treatment options, requiring innovative ways to continuously and remotely assess and quantify symptoms in a way that can provide meaningful and actionable feedback to doctors and patients.

2. Thalmic Labs is exapanding in all directions

Founded in 2012 by Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant, Thalmic Labs Inc. is the maker of the Myo gesture control armband, a wearable device to read the electrical activity of muscles to control devices with gestures and motion. It has raised a funding of US$120 million in a Series B financing, less than three years after launching the Myo armband and plans to double the size of its workforce in the coming months. The Series B financing round, one of the largest on record in Canada’s venture capital market, was led by Intel Capital, the Amazon Alexa Fund and Fidelity Investments Canada. Existing investors Spark Capital, First Round Capital and iNovia Capital also invested. It plans to use the funds raised to fuel continued growth and develop more human-computer interaction products.


The US$120 million is the largest round of funding by a Canadian startup this year, and the largest amount ever raised by a startup of Thalmic’s size in Waterloo Region. The new infusion of capital brings the total money raised by Thalmic to US$135.5 million since it was founded four years ago.

“In the three years since Intel first invested in Thalmic, they’ve made tremendous breakthroughs in technology,” Josh Walden, senior-vice president and general manager of Intel’s new technology group, said in a statement. “These innovations augment Intel’s strategy for wearable technology and align with our vision to bring new and exciting experiences to users,” he said. “We are excited to continue working together.”

Thalmic plans to hire engineers for its research and development teams in its headquarters on Charles Street in downtown Kitchener. It is also hiring sales, marketing and business development talent for its San Francisco office. It just announced the opening of the California office last week. Something big is on cards.

3. Shedding extra pounds using wearables might not be viable

Expecting that wearable devices might help you shed pounds might turn disheartening at some point. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have found that using wearable technology to monitor activity levels does not help people lose weight, and that not using it might help you lose more weight.

The study, spanning over a period of two years, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month, put 470 overweight adults between 18 and 35 years old on a low-calorie diet, prescribed physical activity and group counseling sessions, including meeting with researchers face-to-face once a week. After six months, the participants were split into two groups: one was given activity trackers to monitor their fitness progress, and the other was told to self-monitor and log their activity onto the study website. Participants met with researchers once a month over the next 18 months, and researchers also communicated by text.

The device used in the study, conducted from October 2010 to October 2012, was a BodyMedia Fit Core worn around participant’s upper arm — unlike the Fitbit or Jawbone activity trackers, which are worn on the wrist. It tracked each participant’s steps and minutes of physical activity. Participants could access their activity results through a web-based software. At the end of the two year period, the group that didn’t wear the trackers lost an average of 13 pounds while the group that wore them lost an average of 7.7 pounds.


Does this mean you should dump off your fitness tracker?  Not necessarily. If you don’t have one of these devices and you’re thinking about getting one because you want to control your weight, for example, don’t expect all you need to do is buy a device like this, put it on, wear it and all of a sudden your weight’s going to start to become under control. On contrary these devices help you to be more active.

The study didn’t examine why participants wearing the devices lost less weight than their device-less counterparts, but Jakicic suspects they felt boosted by their exercise success and felt deserving of, say, a treat. Another hypothesis is that the device’s tracking abilities could have discouraged people who felt they weren’t living up to certain goals, he said. Jakicic did note that some who wore the wearable technology lost more weight than those who didn’t wear the device, but it’s not clear why. He hopes to do more research that might unveil why these individuals had success.

A total of 75 per cent of total participants completed the study. Study funding came from a grant provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Some study authors received honoraria for serving on the scientific advisory board for Weight Watchers International or a grant from the makers of wearable technology devices.

4. Middle East is recording high wearable technology market growth percentage

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) wearables growth story continues unabated, with the latest figures from International Data Corporation (IDC) showing that the market grew 66.0% year on year in Q2 2016 to total approximately 482,000 units for the quarter. The global technology research and consulting firm’s findings indicate that shipments of basic wearables (i.e., devices that do not support third-party applications) increased 79.8% year on year in Q2 2016, while shipments of smart wearables (i.e., devices that do support third-party applications) increased 40.5% over the same period.

Price points continue to fall, which is further fueling the growth of these devices, with basic wearables accounting for 70.3% of overall MEA shipments in Q2 2016. Smart wearables are also gaining traction in the region, but uptake is not so strong as consumers don’t yet perceive much added value in opting for more expensive smart devices.A splurge by early adopters helped drive the initial growth for smart wearables, but IDC expects the next wave of adoption for these devices to come from value-seeking consumers or those looking to upgrade from basic wearables.

Looking at 2016 as a whole, IDC expects the MEA wearables market to grow 33.9% year on year in unit terms. This growth will be driven by a 42.5% increase in shipments of basic wearables, while the growth for smart wearables will be a more modest 16.7%. These are exciting times for the wearables market, with niche and mass-market introductions set to change the way we interact with technology in our day-to-day lives. To keep pace with the changes taking place in this fast-moving market, IDC has launched its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, which assists vendors that are looking to enter this market, promote new product developments, or accelerate the growth of their wearables divisions.


5. Snapchat to debut in wearable technology.

Snapchat is about to make it even easier to share snippets of your life, releasing a sunglasses-camera combo that means you’ll no longer have to snap from your phone.

The glasses, called Spectacles, have a small camera in the top left corner and recording is activated by tapping a button near the hinge. The camera, which Snapchat says is “one of the smallest wireless video cameras in the world”, connects via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It will record up to 10 seconds of video at a time in a new circular format, which can be played full screen on any device and captures the human perspective with a 115 degree field of view. The company says Spectacles are “capable of taking a day’s worth of Snaps on a single charge”.

Quartz reports that the messaging app’s first foray into wearable tech will cost US$129.99. Spectacles will be available in black, teal or coral and look much more like ordinary sunglasses than previous innovations like Google Glass. Snapchat says Spectacles will be available “soon”, but has not announced a specific release date.