Posts with «wearables» label

The best fitness trackers you can buy

The fitness tracker isn’t dead, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people keeping these little devices alive. Smartwatches have all but taken over the mainstream wearable space, but the humble fitness tracker remains an option for those who want a gadget to do one thing right all the time. Despite the headwinds, there are still a bunch of fitness bands out there to choose from. Engadget has tested many of them and picked out the best for most people.

What do fitness trackers do best?

The answer seems simple: Fitness trackers are best at monitoring exercise, be it a 10-minute walk around the block or that half marathon you’ve been diligently training for. Obviously, smartwatches can do that too, but there are some areas where fitness bands have the upper hand: focus, design, battery life and price.

When I say “focus,” I’m alluding to the fact that fitness trackers are made to track activity well; anything else is extra. They often don’t have the bells and whistles that smartwatches do, which could distract from their activity-tracking abilities. They also tend to have fewer sensors and internal components, which keeps them smaller and lighter. Fitness trackers are also a better option for those who just want a less conspicuous device on their wrists all day.

Battery life tends to be better on fitness trackers, too. While most smartwatches last one to two days on a single charge, fitness bands will last five days to one week — and that’s with all-day and all-night use.

When it comes to price, there’s no competition. Most worthwhile smartwatches start at $175 to $200, but you can get a solid fitness tracker starting at $70. Yes, more expensive bands exist (and we recommend a few here), but you’ll find more options under $150 in the fitness tracker space than in the smartwatch space.

When to get a smartwatch instead

If you need a bit more from your wearable, you’ll likely want a smartwatch instead. There are things like on-watch apps, alerts and even more robust fitness features that smartwatches have and fitness trackers don’t. You can use one to control smart home appliances, set timers and reminders, check weather reports and more. Some smartwatches let you choose which apps you want to receive alerts from, and the options go beyond just call and text notifications.

But the extra fitness features are arguably the most important thing to think about when deciding between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. The latter devices tend to be larger, giving them more space for things like GPS, barometers, onboard music storage and more. While you can find built-in GPS on select fitness trackers, it’s not common.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Fitbit Charge 5

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Fitbit's Charge 5 has everything most people would want in a fitness tracker. First and foremost, it's not a smartwatch. That means it has a slightly lower profile on the wrist and lasts days on a single charge while tracking activity and sleep. It also has a full-color AMOLED display — a big improvement from the smaller, grayscale screen on last year's Charge 4. That display, along with a thinner design, make Charge 5 feel more premium than its predecessor.

But it also costs $180 — $30 more than the Charge 4 — and that's due in part to the design upgrades but also some additional features. The Charge 5 has EDA sensors for stress tracking and it will eventually support ECG measurements and Daily Readiness Scores (the latter is for only for Premium subscribers). Those are on top of existing features that were carried over from the Charge 4 — most notably, Fitbit Pay support and built-in GPS. The former lets you pay for coffee or groceries with a swipe of your wrist, while the latter helps map outdoor runs, bike rides and other activities. Built-in GPS remains the star of the show here — it's fast and accurate, making the Charge 5 the best option if you want a do-it-all wearable that’s focused on fitness.

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Alternative: Garmin Vivosmart 4

Engadget

A more subtle-looking alternative is the $100 Garmin Vivosmart 4. It’s thinner than the Charge 5 and fits in a bit better with bracelets and other jewelry you might wear regularly. But its attractive design is only part of its appeal — Garmin knows how to track fitness, and the Vivosmart 4 is proof that you don’t need to drop hundreds on one of the company’s fitness watches to get a capable device.

Like the Charge 5, the Vivosmart 4 tracks all-day activity and sleep and has a pulse ox sensor for blood oxygen saturation measurements. It has only connected GPS capabilities, and it has universal music controls that can control the playback of most anything. The band is also waterproof and can track basic swim workouts, plus it also has a battery life of up to seven days. While it’s similar to the Charge 5 in that the Vivosmart 4 works with both Android and iOS devices, it’s a bit more flexible as it syncs with Apple Health (the Charge 5 and other Fitbit devices do not).

Buy Vivosmart 4 at Amazon - $130

Best budget: Fitbit Inspire 2

Fitbit / Tile

If you only have $100 to spare, the Fitbit Inspire 2 is the best option. It strips out all the luxury features from the Charge 5 and keeps only the essentials. You won’t get built-in GPS, Fitbit Pay or Spotify control but you do get excellent activity tracking, automatic workout detection, smartphone alerts and plenty more. As the updated version of the Inspire HR, the Inspire 2 includes a heart rate monitor, which the device uses to keep track of all-day heart rate, active zone minutes, sleep stages and more.

The Inspire HR is thinner than the Charge 5 but it also has interchangeable bands, so you can switch up its style whenever you feel like it. Its design is also swimproof, and it should last up to 10 days on a single charge. Fitbit also recently added Tile-tracking to the Inspire 2, allowing you to find your misplaced band using the Bluetooth locator feature and the Tile mobile app. All of these features make it the best value fitness tracker you can get.

Buy Inspire 2 at Fitbit - $100

Alternative: Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

Samsung

The $60 Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 band is almost like a more affordable Garmin Vivosmart 4. The two trackers share the same skeletal design but the Galaxy Fit looks a bit more utilitarian — you can swap out its bands, though — something you can’t do on Garmin’s device.

We haven’t given the Fit 2 the full review treatment, but Engadget’s Cherlynn Low was impressed with the original Galaxy Fit: the Tizen-based interface is colorful and easy to use, and plenty of people will appreciate its durable, no-nonsense design. It tracks a bunch of workouts as well and even has auto-exercise recognition. That’s on top of its daily activity tracking and sleep monitor, all of which uses the built-in heart rate monitor to collect pulse data throughout the day.

The kicker for the Galaxy Fit 2 is battery life — the tiny tracker can last for up to 15 days on a single charge, and you can even extend it to 21 days if you change some settings. That’s much longer than most competing bands, so even if Samsung isn’t as comprehensive as Garmin or Fitbit is when it comes to fitness data collection and analysis, the Galaxy Fit 2 is a good option for those who want a basic tracker that they can safely forget to charge each night.

Buy Galaxy Fit 2 at Amazon - $60

Most fashionable: Withings Move

Engadget

All of the previously mentioned fitness trackers are attractive in their own way (bonus points to those that have interchangeable bands), but they share a similar look. There aren’t many alternative designs for these devices anymore. The $70 Withings Move watch is an exception, and one of the most traditionally fashionable fitness trackers you can get. It’s an analog watch with a couple of health monitoring features including step, calorie, distance and sleep tracking, connected GPS, auto-recognition for more than 30 workouts and a water-resistant design. But we really love it for its button-cell battery, which can last up to 18 months before needing a replacement.

Buy Withings Move at Amazon - $70

Check your run time on a stretchable electroluminescent stopwatch ‘tattoo’

A stretchable light-emitting device becomes an epidermal stopwatch.
Image: Adapted from ACS Materials Letters 2019

Imagine if your watch wasn’t mounted on your wrist, but was instead integrated into a sort of temporary tattoo on the back of your hand? Such an idea is now one step closer to reality, thanks to new research into alternating-current electroluminescent (ACEL) display technology.

While normally such displays require well over 100VAC to produce sufficient brightness, scientists have worked to get this number down into the 10-35V range, allowing them to be used in much closer proximity to human skin. 

To demonstrate this technology, the team constructed a 4-digit 7-segment display that can be applied to one’s hand, using an Arduino Mega and driver circuitry to turn it into a digital timepiece.

More information can be found in the researchers’ paper published in ACS Materials Letters.

3 Reasons You Should Register For Maker Faire Shenzhen Now

This year, Maker Faire Shenzhen 2019 will be focusing on the theme “To the Heart of Community, To the Cluster of Industry”. With a full chain events for technological innovations, you can look forward to the Maker Summit Forum, Maker Booths (includes highlights and performances), as well as Innovation workshops. […]

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The post 3 Reasons You Should Register For Maker Faire Shenzhen Now appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Experience the world like a cat with this whisker-style sensory extension

Imagine if you had whiskers. Obviously, this would make you something of an oddity in today’s society. On the other hand, you’d be able to sense nearby objects via the transmission of force through these hair structures.

In order to explore this concept, Chris Hill has created a whisker assembly for sensory augmentation, substituting flex sensors for the stiff hairs that we as humans don’t possess. The sensors—four are used here—vary resistance when bent, furnishing information about their status to the Arduino Uno that controls the wearable device. Forehead-mounted vibratory motors are pulsed via PWM outputs in response, allowing the user to feel what’s going on in the surrounding environment.

If this looks familiar, Hill is quick to credit Nicholas Gonyea’s Whisker Sensory Extension Wearable as the basis for this project. He hopes his take on things improves the original, making it lighter, more cost-effective, and easier to construct. 

The purpose of this project was to focus on the creation of novel, computationally-enriched “sensory extensions” that allow for augmented-sensing of the natural world. My major effort with this project was devoted to the fabrication and implementation of sensory augmentations that will extend a sense through sensors and respond with a tactile output for the user. The intent is to enable anyone to fabricate their own sensory extensions, and thusly map intrinsically human/animal senses onto hardware. Effectively extending our senses in new and exciting ways that will lead to a better understanding of how our brain is able to adapt to new external senses.

GymSoles ensure correct form and posture during your workout

While you can get a very good workout on your own, it’s ideal if you have someone else watching over your form. This, of course, isn’t always practical, so researchers at the University of Auckland’s Augmented Human Lab have prototyped a wearable system called GymSoles to help. 

GymSoles consist of a pressure-sensitive insole that is used to determine a foot’s center of pressure, and thus infer whether or not the participant is keeping the weights in the proper position relative to his or her body—perfect for exercises like squats and deadlifts. 

Feedback is provided visually as well as through tactile feedback via eight vibrating motors, allowing participants to modify technique without having to focus on a screen. A computer is used to control the device using an Arduino Uno with motor drivers and an I2C multiplexer.

The correct execution of exercises, such as squats and dead-lifts, is essential to prevent various bodily injuries. Existing solutions either rely on expensive motion tracking or multiple Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) systems require an extensive set-up and individual calibration. This paper introduces a proof of concept, GymSoles, an insole prototype that provides feedback on the Centre of Pressure (CoP) at the feet to assist users with maintaining the correct body posture, while performing squats and dead-lifts. GymSoles was evaluated with 13 users in three conditions: 1) no feedback, 2) vibrotactile feedback, and 3) visual feedback. It has shown that solely providing feedback on the current CoP, results in a significantly improved body posture.

Go all cyberpunk with this laser-spiked jacket!

Your leather jacket might look cool, but one thing it’s missing—unless you’re maker “abetusk” or perhaps a Japanese musician—is lasers! 

After seeing Yoshii Kazuya’s laser-spiked outfit, ‘tusk decided to create an excellent version of the getup by embedding 128 laser diodes embedded in his own jacket. These lasers are powered by an Arduino Nano, along with a pair of I2C PWM output boards, allowing them to be switched in sets of four. 

The lasers can be controlled either by joystick, via a microphone in order to react to sound, or in a looping ‘twinkle’ pattern. 

More information on the project is available in this write-up as well as on GitHub, which includes Arduino code and other files needed to build your own.

After seeing Wei Chieh Shi’s laser jacket design, I wanted to create my own. These instructions show how to modify a jacket to add laser diodes and control them electronically to produce different laser light patterns. The laser diodes give the jacket an appearance of being “spiky”, like having metal spikes but with red laser light. The effect is especially striking in environments with fog or smoke as the laser light path shows a trail from where it originates.

The concept and execution is relatively simple but care has to be taken to make sure that the electronics, wiring and other aspects of the jacket don’t fail when in use. Much of the subtlety and complexity of the project is providing proper wire routing and making sure that strain relief for the electronics and connections is provided so that it’s resilient under normal wear.

Assuming the basic parts are available (soldering iron, multimeter, wire strippers, laser cutter, etc.) I would estimate that this project is about $300 in raw materials and about 20 hours worth of labor.

Depending on the battery used, the jacket can operate for about an hour or two continuously. Spare batteries can be carried around and used to replace the depleted batteries if need be.

Dragon Ball Z head-mounted Scouter computer replica

Those familiar with the Dragon Ball Z franchise will recognize the head-mounted Scouter computer often seen adorning character faces. As part of his Goku costume, Marcin Poblocki made an impressive replica, featuring a see-through lens that shows the “strength” of the person he’s looking at, based on a distance measurement taken using a VL53L0X sensor. 

An Arduino Nano provides processing power for the headset, and light from a small OLED display is reflected on the lens for AR-style viewing.

It’s not exactly perfect copy but it’s actually working device. Inspired by Google virtual glasses I made virtual distance sensor.

I used Arduino Nano, OLED screen and laser distance sensor. Laser sensor takes readings (not calibrated yet) and displays number on OLED screen. Perspex mirror reflects the image (45 degrees) to the the lens (used from cheap Google Cardboard virtual glasses) and then it’s projected on clear Perspex screen.

So you will still see everything but in the clear Perspex you will also see distance to the object you looking at. On OLED screen I typed ‘Power’ instead distance because that’s what this device suppose to measure in DBZ.

Print files as well as code and the circuit diagram needed to hook this head-mounted device up are available on Thingiverse. For those that don’t have a DBZ costume in their immediate future, the concept could be expanded to a wide variety of other sci-fi and real world applications.

Single-handed smartwatch text entry with WrisText

Smartwatches can keep us informed of incoming information at a glance, but responding still takes the use of another hand, potentially occupied by other tasks. Researchers at Dartmouth College are trying to change that with their new WrisText system.

The device divides the outside of a Ticwatch 2 into six sections of letters, selected by the movement of one’s wrist. As letters are chosen, possible words are displayed on the screen, which are then selected automatically, or by rubbing and tapping gestures between one’s finger and thumb. 

The prototype employs an Arduino DUE to pass information to a computer, along with proximity and piezo sensors to detect hand and finger movements. 

We present WrisText – a one-handed text entry technique for smartwatches using the joystick-like motion of the wrist. A user enters text by whirling the wrist of the watch hand, towards six directions which each represent a key in a circular keyboard, and where the letters are distributed in an alphabetical order. The design of WrisText was an iterative process, where we first conducted a study to investigate optimal key size, and found that keys needed to be 55o or wider to achieve over 90% striking accuracy. We then computed an optimal keyboard layout, considering a joint optimization problem of striking accuracy, striking comfort, word disambiguation. We evaluated the performance of WrisText through a five-day study with 10 participants in two text entry scenarios: hand-up and hand- down. On average, participants achieved a text entry speed of 9.9 WPM across all sessions, and were able to type as fast as 15.2 WPM by the end of the last day.

More information can be found in the project’s research paper, or you can see it demonstrated in the video below.

Insta-Hue LED Party Heels

Control the color of these LED party shoes and matching bracelet wirelessly with Adafruit’s handy app

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Don’t Miss Tomorrow Night’s Hardware Didactic Galactic

MAKE » Arduino 06 Jun 22:10