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Amazon’s Halo fitness wearable wants to watch you move

Amazon’s Halo fitness band will soon be able to assess how you move, with a new – and somewhat confusing – tracking feature for the controversial wearable. Launched last year, Halo aims to bring AI and machine learning to bear on individual fitness, though concerns around just what data was being shared with Amazon as part of that led to a troubled debut.

Rather than just logging exercise, steps, and other metrics like other fitness wearables do, Halo also promised to make individual body assessments. To do that, users were asked to take photos of themselves – while wearing tight underwear or workout clothes – that were uploaded to Amazon’s servers. Its machine learning then figured out things like body fat percentage and other metrics.

It was a clever system, but unsurprisingly ran into discomfort about putting uploading such images online – even if Amazon promised to delete them once the analysis had been made. Now, this new Movement Health feature for Halo once again wants to use your smartphone’s camera to share with the AI, only this time Amazon is asking for video too.

Movement health, Amazon says, is based on three factors: posture, stability, and mobility. It’s basically our ability to undertake everyday motions – like carrying items, reaching for things on high shelves, or running – along with our tendencies to slump while sitting at a computer or lean one way or another while standing. That, Amazon argues, is just as important as being able to run 5 miles.

Halo’s answer starts with a video assessment, your smartphone recording you doing five movements: single leg balances, forward lunges, overhead squats, overhead reaches, and feet-together squats. It then calculates body position and any issues with the three movement categories, and boils all that down to a Movement score out of 100. You’ll also get a report on your performance in those categories, plus details on four key areas of the body: the trunk, hips, lower body, and shoulders.

After that, Halo will serve up “corrective exercise videos” focused on your individual trouble spots. That could include stretches, balances, or breathing exercises; a set takes 5-10 minutes, Amazon says, and it recommends they be completed at least three times a week. Repeat assessments every 2-4 weeks track progress, and there’ll be more workout recommendations for an exercise-focused add-on if you want to include calorific burn as well.

Obviously the efficacy of all this depends on a number of factors, not least Amazon’s core model of Movement Health itself. The accuracy of that, and what you’re being compared to, will clearly have an impact on how realistic your score out of 100 is. There are also legitimate questions around how useful, or reasonable, expressing something so broad as movement as a numerical score actually can be.

Indeed, the privacy issue is arguably the least of the concerns here. Amazon says that its movement assessment videos are encrypted as they’re uploaded, “processed within seconds,” and then promptly deleted. Nobody sees them, and you can’t even keep copies yourself for later review.

Movement Health will be added to Amazon Halo in the coming weeks, the company says. The Halo wearable itself is $99.99, including six months of membership; after that it’s $3.99 per month, though the band does offer basic tracking with no subscription fee.

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Sony Reon Pocket 2 wearable air conditioner gets some fashion sense

In 2019, Sony’s internal crowdfunding program gave birth to the first and still only wearable air conditioning system in the world. Looking more like a flattened computer mouse than a mini air conditioner, the Reon Pocket seems to have enjoyed some amount of fame and success because Sony is now coming out with a version 2. Simply called the Reon Pocket 2, the device offers significant new upgrades, including the ability to be worn with your choice of clothes or, if Sony is to be asked, one of the shirts from a new line of fashionable clothes made especially with the Reon Pocket 2 in mind.

The Reon Pocket doesn’t exactly blow cold air inside your shirt. Instead, it employs the Peltier effect to generate the sensation of coldness by absorbing heat or vice versa. It utilizes electronics and different materials to create that effect and those are exactly what’s being upgraded in the Reon Pocket 2.

For the second version, Sony switched from silicon to stainless steel for the cooling surface, as the metal reportedly transfers lower temperatures better to the skin. The internal circuitry has also been improved to absorb more heat to better create that cooling effect. It now also offers minor dust and water resistance, enough to be used for golf.

That application is actually one of the main points of the upgrade and Sony has even partnered with golf apparel makers to come up with exclusive shirts for the Reon Pocket 2. Just like with the first device, these shirts have pockets on the back for the device.

That said, Sony is also offering a $14 neckband accessory so that you can use the Reon Pocket 2 with the shirt of your choice. The device itself costs almost $140 but, just like its predecessor, it is available only in Japan.

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Take your music to the next level with this wearable smart devices for musicians

TLDR: Soundbrenner Pulse is a smart watch made especially for musicians, a wearable metronome that can help players stay on rhythm while also packing a few other cool features.

We’ve seen smartwatches geared toward athletes. We’re even seeing them now tailored to doctors and other medical professionals. So it’s no surprise that the market for specialized wearables is growing to include all kinds of different niche groups.

Like musicians.

Yep, there’s now a smartwatch made especially for musicians. And the Soundbrenner Pulse SmartWatch for Musicians is an absolute ninja if you live in a world of music.

Soundbrenner’s debut product, the Pulse isn’t so much a smartwatch as it is the world’s first wearable metronome. Rhythm is the heartbeat of any musician, and with the Pulse, musicians can follow that rhythm right on their wrist. Rather than listening for the traditionals clicks as a metronome swings back and forth, the Pulse reproduces that sensation as vibrations emitted by a haptic driver.

The vibrations themselves are powerful, up to seven times the reverberation of the average smartphone vibration. With just a quick twist and tap, the Pulse starts vibrating at 120 bpm. Players can then adjust that frequency with the outer dial, as the unit vibrates and lights up while keeping in time. You can even tap the Pulse face and the unit will replicate your desired tempo instantly.

The Pulse can also sync to its own iOS or Android app, allowing users to also make adjustments and track their tempo right through the app. The app also offers other cool features for setting a specific time signature, note subdivisions, vibration intensity, and the beat duration. The app will even let users load playlists or change songs.

Since every musician is a little bit different, Soundbrenner offers two different bands with the Pulse, one to wear the unit as a traditional wristwatch, the other longer band to fit around the arm, leg, or even the waist or torso.

The Pulse is also made to work with an entire band, allowing up to five devices in a multiplayer sync mode to keep every player right on the rock solid beat.

MusicTech called the Pulse “a fantastic companion,” a brilliantly simple way to practice the rhythm that every musician needs to succeed. 

The Pulse retails for $99, but if you use the code PULSE20, you can save $20 off the price of your Soundbrenner Pulse Smartwatch for Musicians, cutting your final cost to only $79. Want to upgrade? Check out the Core model and save $40 with code CORE40 or the Core Steel and save $60 with code MUSICIAN60.

Prices are subject to change.

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OnePlus Watch vs. Samsung Watch 3: The better Android wearable

OnePlus has just announced a slew of devices in its 2021 lineup. Alongside the OnePlus 9 series, the debuting OnePlus Watch is the brand’s first foray into wearables. The new smartwatch has some distinguishable features including one of the best battery backups, which positions it against the more expensive alternatives such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or the Fitbit Sense.

Since the OnePlus Watch is compatible with only Android devices at this point in time, it is fair to pit it against the Galaxy Watch 3, buyers are lured toward when buying an Android smartwatch. Let’s see how OnePlus Watch compares against Samsung’s premium smartwatch on offer.

Design and watch face

OnePlus Watch has a very Galaxy Watch Active 2 vibe to it as far as the appearance is concerned. The minimal rounded face, rubber strap and dual buttons on the right hand side of the smartwatch look eerily similar. On the other hand, the Galaxy Watch 3 has a more premium feel to it. A noticeable improvement from the predecessor, it has a rotatable bezel to toggle between features. It has to be said, if you are going for looks, Galaxy Watch 3 is a no-brainer.

It is pretty early for OnePlus Watch to have a huge library of watch faces, the company however says it’ll kick-off with over 50 watch faces when the smartwatch releases next month. The option of third-party customization will allow developers to design fresh new faces, and the library will eventually increase with time. Galaxy Watch 3 on the other hand already has a huge library of official as well as third-party watch faces to choose from. So if you’re someone who wants to have that luxury, the decision is clear.

Hardware and performance

OnePlus Watch has curved glass, which measures 2.5-inches in diameter and houses a 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen touting 454×454 pixel resolution and 326ppi density. The steel case of the smartwatch measures 46mm which is bigger than most of the smartwatch dials out there. That’s paired to the interchangeable watch bands which can also be swapped with third-party options adding flair. Other than this, it has 4GB internal storage and 1GB of RAM.

The Galaxy Watch 3 on the other hand has a Circular Super AMOLED display featuring 360×360 pixels at 364 ppi protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass DX. The smartwatch comes in two dial variants – the 41mm and 45mm. The Galaxy Watch 3 has almost double onboard storage at 8GB but for processing, you get the same 1GB of RAM. The Samsung wearable comes with three band options – leather, Quick Change and Sport & Hybrid and there are plenty of third-party bands, the buyer can choose from.

Functionality and features

Coming on to the most important aspect of any smartwatch – the inherent features – OnePlus has plenty of them that won’t leave you with anything to complain about. It comes with 110 workout modes and 15 professional fitness modes to stay on top of your health regime.

The smartwatch comes with step tracking, real-time heart rate monitor, blood oxygen sensor and sleep tracking competence. It has on-board GPS for location tracking and is usable to reply to texts or answer incoming calls. The only downside at this point is the lack of compatibility with iOS devices.

Coming on to the Galaxy Watch 3, it has an automatic fitness tracking feature that kicks into action without the need to set it. This comes in handy when you’re cycling, running, swimming or indulged in workout. The smartwatch comes with SpO2 and VO2 Max monitoring capabilities as well as heart-rate monitoring. It can even record ECG for 30 seconds which could be a very useful feature for certain buyers.

The smartwatch gets a very detailed sleep tracking function that allows monitoring deep sleep, REM sleep or even wake after sleep onset. Then there is the customary function of texting or answering calls. Which wearable should you choose among the two is based on personal preference, but if you want more features, Galaxy Watch 3 is the one to go for.

Battery Life and charging

OnePlus has always been on top of its game when it comes to battery on its devices. The new smartwatch is no different, it has a 402mAh Li-Ion battery which is likely to last for almost two weeks on a single charge. Yes, that’s most in the fitness wearable territory, and this single feature is going to lure in many buyers. The battery of the watch can be fast charged with the Warp Charge feature, juicing up the wearable for all-day power in just 5 minutes and full charge in 20 minutes!

Galaxy Watch 3 is packed with a 340mAh Li-Ion battery, which lasts way lesser than the OnePlus Watch. In normal usage, it goes for around two days with the long workout and sleep tracking on at all times. The Galaxy Watch 3 should have provided better backup but it wasn’t to happen, and you’ll have to live with it. The OnePlus Watch thus bags the laurels for its excellent battery life, which is simply astounding for a smartwatch.

Price and availability

The reason we’re having this comparison is that the OnePlus Watch is right around the corner. It is going to be available for purchase starting April 14. The price of the smartwatch is quite exciting at just $159, making it the least priced smartwatch by a major brand. OnePlus Watch is also likely to arrive in premium Cobalt model but there is no price for it yet.

Compare this to the Galaxy Watch 3 – 41mm dial and the LTE model now retail for $190; the 45mm LTE variant however shoots up to $220 a piece. Initially, the LTE model was priced starting at $450. If you don’t mind the cost, Galaxy Watch 3 is a safe bet, whereas OnePlus is an overall package for a price that’s irresistible.

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Facebook’s making a wearable that uses your nerve signals to control AR

Facebook is developing a new input device for AR glasses: a wristband that lets you interact with virtual reality by moving your fingers.

The system uses electromyography (EMG) to convert nerve signals passing through the wrist into digital commands.

Facebook says that these signals are so clear that EMG can understand finger motions of just a millimeter:

That means input can be effortless. Ultimately, it may even be possible to sense just the intention to move a finger.  

The devices also use contextualized AI to dynamically adapt to you and your environment.

[Read: This haptic device uses strings to let you ‘feel’ objects in VR]

Facebook still hasn’t revealed a release date for the wristbands, but unveiled two prototype devices in a Thursday blog post.

The company says it explored a range of other input sources before deciding the wrist has some unique benefits:

The wrist is a traditional place to wear a watch, meaning it could reasonably fit into everyday life and social contexts. It’s a comfortable location for all-day wear. It’s located right next to the primary instruments you use to interact with the world — your hands. This proximity would allow us to bring the rich control capabilities of your hands into AR, enabling intuitive, powerful, and satisfying interaction.

Initially, Facebook plans to use EMG for just one or two finger movements, which it refers to as “intelligent clicks.” But the company expects the signals to eventually fully control virtual objects and interfaces.

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Published March 18, 2021 — 18:44 UTC

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