Kinematix Tune

ISPO 2016 Recap 2: Fitness and Connecting Tech

When it comes to the technological side of fitness things, I did not find much that was of the greatest interest at the ISPO 2016 – but maybe I, too, am just waiting on Suunto’s next move to the Ambit4 / post-Ambit.

Such connecting tech which links physiological insight into one’s bodily being, physical location on this world of ours, and ourselves is fascinating, but not when it’s all the same – and recently, at least when it comes to wearables, it has all become too similar.

Garmin

Garmin of course showed its newest versions of the fenix3.

For the kinds of measurements I want and would suggest getting in training (R-R / HRV, that is), an optical HR doesn’t do much good, however, and otherwise they are basically just old electronics in new cases.
(“Old electronics” isn’t meant to say they’re bad. I stand by my review‘s conclusions that you just need to know what you want, There isn’t much of an upgrade here, though.)

There was also the cycling heads-up display that is the Varia Vision.

It is a fascinating technology, there could be some sensible uses for it – but if you want to really be where you are and as you are, adding another screen to a lens might not be the best idea, either (though I’d be open to being proven otherwise).

Suunto

Suunto, having announced and brought to market the Ambit3 Vertical since the Outdoor Retailer in the US a few weeks earlier, was not even present at the ISPO.

Well, there were two presences even as there was no booth:

For one, Finnish clothing maker Reima presented a kid’s wear line with activity tracking powered by Suunto’s Movesense, ReimaGo.

(Turns out there is, apparently, an accelerometer that could be used for activity tracking in that little pod of a sensor, not just the tech to connect a HR strap to an Ambit or Traverse.)

Also, some people from the Suunto team were there, and I had a chance for a longer chat with a main contact of mine.

Of course there was no straight reply on whether an Ambit3 successor would be coming this year, but going by the knowing smile that greeted the question, we may be in for a treat – or more than one…

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Lime
Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Lime (image from Suunto website)

… and I now have an Ambit3 Vertical to test and review. That will take all of February, though, as I’ll want to sensibly put it through its paces in the mountains.

Fitness Wearables & Mio PAI

In wearables / fitness trackers, the usual lineup from Garmin, Polar, FitBit, etc. was present(ed).

The only real change, however, is Mio’s switch away from a step counter or other simplistic indications of activity levels to their “Personal Activity Intelligence,” arguing that steps (let alone distances based on them) aren’t really the best measure of one’s activity in and of themselves.

PAI, working on a smartphone app connected with a Mio device, instead uses HR monitoring and its interpretation, personalized for the user, to give an index of activity.

This is not entirely as “scientifically proven to help you maximize your longevity and reduce the risk of lifestyle-related diseases” as the website claims*, but based on very good studies that have shown linkages between physical activity and (the avoidance of) premature death and lifestyle diseases.
(* My quibble with it is that these studies are correlative and, of course, show an aggregate effect. So, chances are that being active will help you and that their tracking will provide decent advice – but you’ll also have to see if it does work out like that for you.)

Compare that to the measure of 10,000 steps a day counting as a physically active lifestyle, which is just a number someone came up with and others have repeated since then because it sounds so good and easy-to-understand…

The problem in this area, though, may simply be that I’m not a big fan of general activity tracking on the wrist (influenced by gesticulation and wanting to take a space where I typically wear a Suunto watch).
So, all the wrist-band activity trackers just aren’t for me.

With continuous heart rate tracking, they get more interesting, but it isn’t often done as well as it may be with the PAI, or plays along with other tracking well-enough, that I find it really enticing.

(The Microsoft Band2 may make me reconsider, given all its sensors and functions, but that wasn’t present here and doesn’t record all the data theoretically available from it, making it a bit flawed in its execution, in my opinion.)

Two things I did find it worth a closer look, however…

Bluetens

Bluetens
Bluetens

The Bluetens device is basically just a cheaper, less laboratory-looking electric stimulation device like those made by Compex.

Made for either muscle stimulation or pain relief/relaxation, it connects to an app for choosing which program to run, where it’s also explained where the electrodes need to go, then runs also without a connection to the smartphone (and allows the user to e.g. change intensity on its little control pod).

Add how it packs away very nicely and is easy to carry, and this is something one could bring along and get a little jolt to relieve pain… which might be nice at times.

Kinematix Tune

Kinematix Tune
Kinematix Tune

Basically pressure pads to put under your insoles, the forthcoming Kinematix Tune (planned release spring/summer 2016) will measure your running form, making clear whether you are a heel striker or a forefoot prancer once and for all.

Not only that, it will also help you analyze when your running form is like what, what your ground contact time is, whether you have an imbalance between your right and left foot, and more…

I’m not entirely sure I’d really want to know all of that, but only out of a ‘fear’ it would give me data to support my intuition that I do have some imbalances (not to mention a deteriorating running form as distances get longer) – and then, having data about it, another excuse for not doing more strengthening and form exercises would go out the window.

In other words: You’ll very likely hear more about this from me.

Petzl

Including a company and its headlamp(s) when talking about ‘connecting tech’ would not have been my expectation, but Petzl has now earned itself a spot in this category.

Their Nao has already been a strange case of high-tech applied to something that seems simple, and with an interesting result (see my review of the first gen Petzl Nao), when it started.

In fall 2016, it will add to that when it comes out as the Nao+ (alongside a similarly equipped/updated Reactik+) which will not only feature the Reactive Lighting that adapts to ambient light, but also BTLE to connect to a smartphone app for adjusting its output.

Now, that sounds like a strange idea.

After all, is it really necessary to fiddle around with an app and add another complication to something where it would be enough to just switch a button and have light?

On that point, I was happy when my question as to the Why? was first answered with “To show what’s possible?” – but then the explanation also went to how this combination would make it possible to, for example, “tell” the app that it needed to provide illumination for the next 5 hours, so adjust accordingly.

That doesn’t sound so bad, even with a smartphone while on the fly. In a package with a then-750 lumen maximum output, even less so.

Petzl Nao+, Reactik+
Petzl Nao+, Reactik+

There were some other things to note, for example some pointers towards smart clothing able to measure physiological data and transmit it into an app, but this was rather less of a topic this year than even last year. So, it remains to be seen how things will go with that.

In the meantime, in my third and last ISPO 2016 recap, let’s have a look at clothes that are smart in the other sense of the word, in terms of looks (and technical performance)…

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