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Health and fitness of CES 2013

There were plenty of trends here at CES 2013, and we'd be remiss to overlook all of the activity trackers and other health-related tech devices that were shown off at the show. If you're looking to catch up, you're in the right place.

  • Sam Byford

    Jan 11, 2013

    Sam Byford

    Invasion of the body trackers: take me to your leader

    fitness stock jawbone up nike fuelband fitbit
    fitness stock jawbone up nike fuelband fitbit

    There's no doubt about it — CES 2013 marked the point where fitness- and health-tracking devices became a legitimate affair. The category until now has been dominated by a few success stories — Fitbit, FuelBand, and so on — and true to CES form we're seeing a lot more companies attempting to cash in. After all, "people in America, frankly, are really fat" as Fitbit CEO James Park told The Verge in an interview yesterday; the obesity problem has been a hot-button issue for decades, and companies and startups are now attempting to leverage the rise of smartphones to capitalize on the epidemic. According to Travis Bogard, VP of product for Jawbone which produces the Up fitness band, these devices make sense because "people know more about their iPhones than their health." But the majority of new products we've seen at this year's show have been me-too attempts bringing little to the table. What's the future of these devices — exciting new paradigm in personal data, or evolutionary dead end?

    The majority of these products are glorified pedometers. A simple accelerometer measures your movements with a fairly high degree of accuracy, but the magic happens in software; the data is synced to apps which convert it into useful information about the user's lifestyle, offering a picture of their activity over time. The differences between major competitors are mostly superficial. Fitbit makes tiny clip-on Bluetooth devices that track steps and sleep patterns, and just announced the wristband-style Flex. Jawbone's Up does the same thing, syncing with an iPhone via a physical plug. Nike's FuelBand is much the same, but loses the sleep-tracking functionality in favor of a dot matrix display and Bluetooth connectivity. All have mobile apps that convert the data into attractive graphs and charts. Are they cool? Sure. Are they unique ideas? Not in the slightest.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    Jan 11, 2013

    Dante D'Orazio

    Mio Alpha is a less cumbersome heart rate watch for athletes

    Gallery Photo:
    Gallery Photo:

    It's not hard to find fitness trackers here at CES (just take a look around the South Hall), but one that has caught our eye outside of the usual suspects is the Mio Alpha. The company is here with its heart rate watch after a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer, and we've just had the chance to use the product for ourselves.

    Watches that monitor heart rate aren't new, but what's different about the Alpha is that it can accurately take continuous readings during intense workouts (e.g. running up to 12mph) without the need for a chest strap. To measure heart rate, the Alpha shines a green light that's reflected off the capillaries in the top of your wrist. The watch then monitors how much light is reflected back to pull a reading. Watches like the Basis use the same technology, but Mio CEO Liz Dickinson says that the Alpha uses a Philips-made algorithm that ignores false signals to be able to still get ECG-accurate readings during workouts.

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  • Sam Byford

    Jan 10, 2013

    Sam Byford

    Spot the difference: LG unveils Nike+ FuelBand-inspired Smart Activity Tracker

    LG smart activity tracker
    LG smart activity tracker

    Fitness and lifestyle products are a major theme at CES, and LG's clearly eager to get on board the trend — its booth has a new prototype called the Smart Activity Tracker. As you'll no doubt have noticed, it bears more than a slight resemblance to Nike's FuelBand, sporting a similar dot matrix-style display and matte black rubber finish.

    Despite this, it does actually have some cool features of its own — the band is controlled by a touchscreen, which should make it easier to control than the FuelBand, and the Bluetooth syncing does some neat tricks like showing contact information when a call is coming in. LG wouldn't speak to pricing, but it's planned for release this summer.

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  • Kimber Streams

    Jan 9, 2013

    Kimber Streams

    iBitz fitness tracker encourages kids to exercise by caring for a virtual pet (hands-on)

    Gallery Photo:
    Gallery Photo:

    Amid concerns that the world's youth are becoming increasingly unhealthy, GeoPalz is releasing a new fitness tracking system for families that — like so many others — is primarily aimed at making exercise fun for kids. The colorful iBitz pedometer syncs with an iOS app using Bluetooth 4.0, and tracks your steps for the day. For adults, GeoPalz has designed a standard fitness tracking app, called Unity, which we're told also allows parents to track the progress of any kids devices synced with the app. Unfortunately, we weren't able to spend time with the Unity app, which is still in development. The kids version, PowerKey, lets children use their steps to tend to a pet in a manner reminiscent of the Tamagotchi, feeding it and exercising to keep it healthy.

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  • Chris Welch

    Jan 8, 2013

    Chris Welch

    Hands on with Fitbit's new Flex wristband fitness tracker

    Fitbit
    Fitbit

    We just spent some time with the Fitbit Flex, the company's latest wristband-style fitness tracker. Announced earlier today, the device syncs in realtime with iOS hardware (and select Android handsets soon), and there's also an included USB dongle that will automatically upload your activity data to a nearby PC or Mac. Getting set up is simple enough; you just pop the tiny white tracker unit into a soft, colored wristband and go about your day. Aside from its core fitness monitoring, the Flex will also track the quality of your sleep each night and you can set alarms to wake you in the morning. Flex is water resistant and shower-ready; the company says it put the device through a number of tests to prove its mettle. Two sizes of the Flex wristband will be included in each box, so you it shouldn't take long to find the right fit. We found the latest Fitbit comfortable to wear and the LEDs were perfectly visible in bright sunlight. We're looking forward to giving the final version a thorough test this spring.

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  • Thomas Ricker

    Jan 7, 2013

    Thomas Ricker

    Fitbit Flex wristband with Bluetooth could be the best activity tracker yet

    Fitbit Flex
    Fitbit Flex

    The water resistant Flex can be worn in the shower and shares most of the features of the company's flagship One including the ability to track sleep quality, set alarms, and integrate with a wide variety of fitness devices on the market through the company's apps, services, and online dashboard. However, LED lights replace the miniature displays found on the One and Zip, reducing feedback to a basic visual representation of your activity level throughout the day. And while it doesn't include an altimeter like the One for tracking the number of stairs you climb each day, it does share its modular design allowing you to switch between black, slate, teal, tangerine, and navy bands to match your mood.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    Jan 7, 2013

    Dante D'Orazio

    Fitbug Orb tries to take down activity tracker rivals with Bluetooth scale and blood pressure monitor

    Gallery Photo:
    Gallery Photo:

    We're sure to see plenty of activity trackers here at CES, and tonight one smaller company here is releasing a new line of equipment to try and win over a few users. The company's called Fitbug — yes, they compete with Fitbit — and it has a new Bluetooth tracker called the Orb. If you've used a Fitbit One or a Jawbone Up you'll be familiar with what's on offer with the Orb, though Fitbug does change it up by offering three different syncing modes — one for real-time updates for use during workouts, another for syncing in 30-minute intervals, and a last that updates on demand.

    The Orb offers many of the same features that we've seen on other devices, like like keeping track of how many steps you've taken, how far you've traveled, how many calories you've burnt, and how you've slept. The app, which is for the Galaxy S III or the iPhone 4S and up also allows you to record what food you've eaten throughout the day. Unlike its competitors, however, the Orb is a tiny coat-button sized device, and Fitbug is offering an array of accessories to help you mount it in different spots. There's a watch-like accessory, as well as a belt clip, lanyard, sleep pouch, and a magnetized clip for connecting to a bra, but the CEO told us it's most accurate when mounted on your waist. It's worth noting that it uses a watch battery rather than a rechargeable one, but that's somewhat expected considering the Orb will only cost $49.99 when it launches sometime this spring.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Jan 7, 2013

    T.C. Sottek

    BodyMedia Core 2 personal fitness and health monitor hands-on

    Gallery Photo: BodyMedia Core 2 personal fitness and health monitor hands-on photos
    Gallery Photo: BodyMedia Core 2 personal fitness and health monitor hands-on photos

    We're at CES Unveiled in Las Vegas, and just had a chance to take a look at BodyMedia's new Core 2 health and fitness monitor. The company is hailing the device's sleek form factor — it's much smaller than its older Link and Core monitors — and its new size allows it to quickly change appearance with snap-on faceplates, armbands, and cuffs. The smaller size alsop BodyMedia says the Core 2, like its existing devices, can capture over 5,000 data points per minute with a variety of sensors that can detect a user's temperature, heart rate, and other biometric data. The Core 2 will release in August, and while the company doesn't have a firm price yet, it says it should be comparable to its Link and Core devices, which top out at $119.

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  • Bryan Bishop

    Jan 6, 2013

    Bryan Bishop

    Withings Smart Activity Tracker and Smart Body Analyzer scale (hands-on)

    Gallery Photo: Withings
    Gallery Photo: Withings

    We just spent some time with two new products from Withings, the company behind the Wi-Fi Bodyscale. As we reported this morning, the Smart Activity Tracker is the company's answer to the Fitbit One: it's a small activity tracker that measures your steps taken, calories burned, and the quality of sleep. It also features one significant new addition: press your finger to the back of the device for 15 seconds, and it will detect your heart rate. The data is synced to the Withings app, giving users one more metric to measure and keep track of from their smartphone or the Withings website. The device can sync via Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE, depending on your device.

    The tracker is roughly the same size as the Fitbit One, with a bright OLED display that was easy to read. It should fit nicely in the change pocket of your jeans, but the company will be providing both a belt clip and an armband for more versatile use. One compelling feature is the addition of a touchscreen; users can scroll back to view their activity history from within a given category. Unfortunately we found it somewhat awkward to use, having to try several times for the swipes to register. The heart rate monitor feature was similarly problematic, but we were assured that the device we used was a prototype and not final hardware. Withings wouldn't reveal the price of the Activity Tracker, but they did say it would be in line with competitors.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Jan 6, 2013

    Nathan Ingraham

    Leikr's GPS sportswatch: how a group of ex-Nokia triathletes are innovating on the wrist

    leikr lead
    leikr lead

    The Leikr GPS sportswatch launched on Kickstarter last week, and we just had a chance to sit down with head of US product development Ryan Krems to take a look at their prototype and learn about how the company got its start. The team behind Leikr all previously worked at Nokia's now-closed Copenhagen office, and are all avid athletes. That focus on athletic usage shows up in Leikr's design — the watch is more functional than stylish. It features a two-inch color display with Gorilla Glass; the screen itself is reflective, so the colors are a bit more washed out than your average smartphone, but readability in the sun should be much improved. That's a major factor for the Leikr's target market, as is the quick GPS lock-on. While the watch's design isn't going to turn any heads, it should absolutely meet the needs of athletes who want to track their workouts.

    Krems also told us about Leikr's production goals — the first watches should be available to Kickstarter backers in June, and Leikr feels strongly that its background with production at Nokia will be a major factor in meeting those goals. Generally, the company's goal is to use its background in phones to push innovation in the smartwatch category; Krems feels that current products in the category have stagnated a bit, and hopes that Leikr will bring the rapid pace of phone innovation to the company's chosen market.

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