CES 2018 drew to a close a couple of weeks back, and the spotlight was on Artificial Intelligence, smart cars, and random gadgets which forced us to raise an eyebrow and ask, “Why even?”.
But more interestingly, the future of sports and fitness tech was showcased in the form of new sensors and trackers. Gamification and AI are definitely upping the ante as far as wearables and The Quantified Self is concerned. Connected fitness has some new players who are making some very impressive headlines, and embedded sensor tech is the biggest driver in this sector.
Sensors in shoes, VR in fitness, embedded sensors in clothing, smart glasses and earbuds, and a motion-sensor that’s open to other developers – this is what CES brought in the sports tech space.
Suunto introduced it’s Movesense platform – a 1.44-inch sensor that incorporates an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, temperature sensor, heart rate, and ECG sensor in a pre-built package that can be integrated in any device or garment. The best part about this? Companies can buy the sensor readily to use it in a multitude of products, without having to go over the process of designing a sensor from scratch.
And companies such as Ain1.ai, Runteq, SUPA and TriMix have already begun incorporating this platform into their products. Ain1.ai will make equipment that athletes and patients can wear to track their body vitals, while Runteq is developing a wearable product and a cloud-based application that will double up as a fitness coach.
SUPA is doing slightly cooler things, and has a proprietary AI on board to contextualise the biometric data and provide personalised insights and data analytics. TriMix, on the other hand, is developing a home gym ecosystem which will personalise workout regimes depending on the user’s vitals. All in all, different companies developing different things, using one common platform.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE + SPORTS TECH
Artificial Intelligence has always been a potential game changer in this space, but CES made it all the more evident. Mostly, AI is making its presence in the form of customised coaching and customisable regimes for users, depending on readings taken from sensors embedded in, you guessed it, trackers and fitness apparel.
According to Steven Webster, the CEO of asensei, a start-up of connected apparel, connected coaching or AI based coaching isn’t aimed at replacing human coaches, but to give access to multiple users to world class coaching any time.
But that’s not all. AI also paves the path for gamification of user experiences, providing avenues for actionable feedback, and at the same time helping in crunching of vital data.
VR IN FITNESS?
I’d never thought I’d see VR have potential in fitness. While one is an immersive form of entertainment, another is, well, fitness – which one might say is another immersive form of entertainment, but you can’t really combine the two, can you?
But one of the CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree, and the winner of the Best Startup Award at CES, was Black Box VR. Their concept is simple enough – a virtual gym that can be made using an HTC Vive, motion-tracking controllers and specially designed workout equipment. Gamification is an important part of the equation, and users can join games, workout with dedicated virtual trainers, and challenge friends.
Another area – which isn’t exactly related directly to sports tech – that saw some coverage during CES was the headgear sector, specially helmets and concussion detection gear.
Prevent Biometrics showcased a Head Impact Monitoring System, which is a mouthguard that records data as soon as it detects a collision. The embedded sensors measure the linear and rotational acceleration, as well as the exact point of impact, to better aid medical personnel in taking the necessary treatment procedures.
The Coros Omni Helmet utilises bone conducting earphone tech, to enable cyclists to be aware of their surroundings while at the same time listening to music, make and receive calls and navigate. This helmet also utilises an impact detection sensor, which will alert specific contacts on the occurrence of an accident.
Smart earbuds which monitor an athlete’s performance, smart watches which double up as music players, shoes and sensors which detect finer aspects of a run such as cadence, step length and vertical oscillation, and a treadmill system which connects users to fitness coaches in other cities.
Myant showcased SKIIN, which is an underwear line that helps measure hydration, heart rate and body temperature without the need for a separate monitor. There’s definitely a lot of potential.
WHAT IMPRESSED ME
Okay, so here’s the thing. In terms of new products, CES 2018 had little to offer in sports tech. However, that being said, I’m quite excited about the potential of AI and VR in this space, since both of them offer enhanced levels of interaction and data analysis to the whole idea of tracking fitness data.
What do I expect to see in the near future? More companies adapting the approach to build trackers that aren’t restricted just to the wrists, and sensors embedded within clothes. In the near future, AI will definitely be at the helm when it comes to analysing data on the fly. The future of sports tech is certainly promising!