08 Feb Weekly Wearables Roundup: MIT, Kronaby, Touch Cardio, Gear Fit Pro, Thync
1. Conversation coach for people suffering Asperger’s Syndrome
People suffering from Asperger’s syndrome and those on the autism spectrum can struggle to engage with other people and topics outside of their own spheres of interest, making every social interaction for them a battle. Keeping up with conversations can be especially challenging then, since difficulty interpreting the meaning of nonverbal communication like gestures and facial expressions, and modulations in the speech patterns of others is one of the assay marks of the condition.
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are set out to make these interactions less distressing. Using wearable tech and AI deep-learning systems, they’ve developed a tool that could someday act as a real-time virtual social coach. Recently published research work by MIT graduate student Tuka Alhanai and PhD candidate Mohammad Ghassemi describes an AI system that uses specialized algorithms to analyze audio, text transcriptions and physiological signals to help determine a conversation’s overall tone in real-time. The system runs on a Samsung Simband, a modular, research-centric wrist wearable that can be tricked out with a wide variety of sensors and has the capacity to run custom algorithms on its hardware.
Unlike most research in this area of study, this system was tested measuring organic, real world conversations rather than asking participants to watch bittersweet videos. After training two algorithms on data collected by the Simbands in 31 trial conversations, the research team found the system could determine the overall tone of a story with 83 percent accuracy and provide more granular for specifically targeted five-second intervals of speech. The models predicted the mood of those intervals at an 18 percent above chance accuracy rate, which is 7.5 percent better than other methods.
Currently the system only provides binary feedback for the conversations on the whole, labeling individual interactions as either positive or negative. The Simband platform is another limiting factor since the wearable isn’t commercially available. But there’s a clear path to development. The researchers hope to find a way to use the system on commercial wearables like the Apple Watch, which would massively expand the data available to the algorithms. With more data, algorithms learn and improve, which would in turn make the system more effective.
2. Kronaby launches its first collection of smartwatches
Swedish outfit Kronaby has launched its first collection of hybrid smartwatches. Analogue or hybrid watches are classic looking timepieces that combine the look and functionality of a traditional watch with abilities that are evident in today’s smartwatches. Discreetly housed in the casing of these devices is technology that keeps tabs on your daily activity and sleep metrics. Some even display smartphone notifications.
The Kronaby – Apex, Sekel, Nord, and Carat models – combine Scandinavian design and digital engineering together with traditional Swiss watchmaking craftsmanship. When paired with a smartphone, the watches offer a unique set of features and an impressive battery life of up to 2 years, making charging a thing of the past. There are 43mm and 38mm versions to choose from, all crafted from Stainless steel 316L and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The classical designed dial and hands are there for showing time and other information. The Apex and a selection of the Sekel models also have sub dials for displaying additional time and step count. In terms of other fitness tracking features, the app allows you to set up a step goal and toggle reminders to get you off the sofa when you have been sitting for too long.
The watch range also has some useful notification features which are delivered via the vibration motor. Set up your list of preferred contacts in the app, and you’ll only be notified by the people and goings-on you care most about. There is also a Decline Call button on your wrist to avoid those pesky phone calls. The top and bottom pushers and the crown can be programmed with some nifty features as well. The crown can serve as a quick way to set a timer to commence a countdown, it can function as a built-in camera remote, it can help you find your phone or play music. A rather novel feature is a round the clock emergency function, which sends a signal to your loved one at the push of a button.Each model is water resistant up to 100 meters, and comes with a leather, mesh, or stainless steel, strap, depending on your preference.
3. TomTom’s Touch Cardio fitness tracker
TomTom Sports has launched a scaled-down version of its Touch fitness tracker. Touch Cardio is essentially the same device, minus the fancy body composition functionality. The new tracker pretty much covers the basics. This includes counting steps, active time, calories burned, distance walked, and monitoring sleep time. There is also a heart rate sensor which keeps tabs on your ticker at regular intervals throughout the day.
Predecessor device was launched at IFA in September last year and is the first fitness tracker with the ability to analyze your body composition from the wrist. It received mixed reviews and is currently averaging 3.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Detecting body composition is difficult enough for smart scales, doing it from the wrist is another challenge altogether. The Dutch company is now trying to make its fitness tracker range more accessible to the masses. In addition to being cheaper, the new device also features a more fashion-friendly design than its predecessor, and will work with the company’s new sports app. Touch Cardio will be available in the US and UK in March, priced at a reasonable £89.99
4. Successor of Samsung’s Gear Fit fitness tracker coming soon
Samsung has just trademarked the name Gear Fit Pro, indicating an update to the popular Gear Fit fitness tracker is in the works. The trademark application has been filed with the European Intellectual Property Agency, and does not include technical specs or any further details. Unfortunately, this is all we have in terms of information at this stage as no actual details were released beyond the brand.
The South Korean manufacturer’s Gear Fit fitness band was launched in June last year. It came with a worthy bump in specs and a slew of features, such as a standalone music player and increased memory storage, as well as a comfortable and stylish new design. In terms of sensors, the major bump in specs compared to the original version released two years earlier, came from the inclusion of a built-in GPS and barometer. In a sense, Samsung’s flagship wearable now sits somewhere between a fitness tracker and smartwatch.
The word Pro in the new trademark registration suggests we can expect to see evolutional changes, rather than an entirely new device. Its possible we may hear an official announcement as soon as end February or early March at the Mobile World Congress in Madrid or the Wearable Technology Show in London. Another possible venue and launch date could be Berlin and IFA 2017 in September.
5. Thync for reducing your stress levels
In the world of wearable technology, tracking fitness activity is typically the main goal. However, a growing number of devices are trying to gauge your state of mind. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.
Thync asserts that it has created the first technology that gives you the power to change the way you feel. The Star Trek esque device, which looks similar to an an eye patch only for your forehead, connects up with an accompanying app that delivers waveforms to your brain. Thync waveforms activate specific nerves on the head that signal the brain to shift to a state of calm or give you a boost of energy depending on which of the two you are after at any given moment. You do this by choosing a connecting strip based on whether you want to feel energised or calm.
Vibes were created from years of research, development and testing by Thync neuroscientists and engineers. The calm and energised modes work on two different parts of the nervous system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions that regulate the body for action or tranquility respectively. This essentially causes a feeling that can be equated to meditation or the invigoration of splashing cold water on your face – only more focused. Using Thync once a day is a good start. One limiting factor are the replaceable strips: Thync officially recommends that you only use them once before replacing (a pack of five costs up for US$20). You can get around this by reusing strips until they start losing adhesiveness. Or you can take-up monthly subscription which is available at a discount.