FreeWavz Wirefree Wearable Earphones

FreeWavz LogoBluetooth headphone are commonplace these days but usually there’s a connector between the two earphones, either as a wire or a band. The FreeWavz wirefree earphones are different, using Bluetooth to transmit the music to both earphones, so there’s no physical connection between the earphones. The earphones are smart too, as the blend between sound from the smartphone and the surrounding environment can be adjusted to match the wearer’s preferences.

That’s the “wirefree” part taken care of. What about the “wearable” bit? Aimed at the fitness enthusiast, FreeWavz aren’t only earphones, they’re fitness bands for the ears, measuring the wearer’s heart rate. As you’d expect, the data is reported back to the connected smartphone but the wearer also hears about his heart rate, calories burned, distance and steps in his ears via the FreeWavz. It’s all clever stuff and there’s more revealed in the interview.

The FreeWavz earphones are expected in the summer and are on pre-order for $219 (RRP is $249).

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Gripix Is An Innovative Wi-Fi Trigger System For GoPro At CES

Gripix logo

GoPro cameras have become almost ubiquitous in the outdoor tech scene, and the folks at Gripix are making it easy to capture amazing GoPro footage, both on land and in the water.

Todd got to talk with Tyler Reid, co-founder of Gripix, about the newly-announced Gripix Wi-Fi Trigger System for GoPro. Gripix uses your standard GoPro remote to create a durable, easy-to-use stainless steel mount and trigger system. Their add-ons and accessories allow you to push the limits of your GoPro even further.

The basic Gripix handle ($99) and two add-ons; the top pole ($49) and the low-pro system ($59) will begin shipping in March and are available for pre-order now.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Babolat Play Connected Racket Raises The Game

Babolat PlayBabolat‘s pedigree in tennis is hard to beat, going right the way back to the 19th Century, when the company helped create the first racket strings. Today, it’s pushing forwards into the 21st Century with a new connected racket based on their AeroPro Drive to help both tennis professionals and keen amateurs improve their game. Don chats with Jean-Marc Zimmermann, Babolat CIO.

The Babolat Play racket looks like an ordinary racket on the outside but with sensors integrated into the handle, players now have access to a wealth of information – power level, impact position on the racket head, type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash), top spin or back spin, all provided through a smartphone app for both Apple and Android. Incredibly, there are no sensors outside of the handle, so the racket can be treated like any other racket when it comes to match preparation and re-stringing. The racket can be taken on court for six hours between charges, which is plenty for a couple of matches, and holds over 150 hours of performance information.

The Babolat Play racket will be on sale in mid-January for $349. Two further models will be on sale; one lighter for junior players ($299) and one with a larger head (if I understand correctly), also at $349.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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ShotTracker Basketball Performance at CES

ShotTracker Logo

Sports such as running and cycling have been well supplied for several years with monitoring and tracking devices to record and improve performance. At this year’s CES, several other sports have become connected, including tennis with the Babolat Play racket and here basketball with the ShotTracker. Jamie and Todd chat to Davyeon Ross, Co-Founder of ShotTracker.

ShotTracker is made of 3 components: a wrist sensor, a net sensor and the ShotTracker App. The wrist sensor and net sensor work together to track shots: when a player shoots, the wrist sensor sends a signal that a shot was attempted and the net sensor sends a signal indicating if the ball made it into the basket. Both signals are sent to the mobile device via Bluetooth where the ShotTracker app keeps track of the player’s shooting stats. The wrist sensor fits into sweat band or sleeve to go on the player and the net sensor clips onto the net.

The app shows statistics (shots, makes and misses), gives workouts and helps identify on-court weaknesses. Data from multiple ShotTrackers can be aggregated into a coaching version of the ShotTracker app, giving a team view. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

The ShotTracker starter kit is on sale now for $149 from the store.

Interview by Jamie Davies of Health Tech Weekly andTodd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Perfect Your Swing With Babolat Play

Babolat PlayTo improve at any skill or game, it’s often practice, practice, practice but today’s technology can help point out the areas to work on. Babolat‘s rackets are world famous and used by some of the top tennis professionals and for tennis fans, Babolat have developed a connected tennis racket based on their AeroPro Drive to help them hone their game. Eva shows Todd the new racket, Babolat Play.

The Babolat Play racket looks like an ordinary racket on the outside but with sensors integrated into the handle, players now have access to a pile of information – power level, impact position on the racket head, type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash), top spin or back spin, all provided through a smartphone app for both Apple and Android. The racket can be taken on court for six hours between charges and over 150 hours of performance information can be recorded between downloads, which can be either via USB or Bluetooth.

The Babolat Play racket will be on sale in March for $349.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Unleash the AirDog (at CES)

AirDogWith the advances in drone technology, it’s easy to fly most drones these days. To fly a drone well and record video at the same time still takes a great deal of skill. It’s especially difficult if you are the pilot, cinematographer and star all at the same time. If this is your problem, then the AirDog is the solution. Todd cries, “Havoc” and lets slip the AirDogs of war.

The AirDog drone has two unique selling points. First, it folds up to fit into a backpack and second, it can follow its owner from the air, filming the action. The owner wears a wristband somewhat reminiscent of Jack Harkness which lets the drone track the owner’s position. Various parameters can be set to adjust how the AirDog positions itself relative to the owner, such as height and distance. Seriously cool.

The AirDog will be available later in the year for $1,500 but pre-orders are open for a little under $1,300. You’ll also need to get yourself a GoPro camera.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Linx IAS Monitors Sports Impacts at CES

BlackBox logoWith concussion now an increasing concern in many sports, Todd talks to David from BlackBox Biometrics about the Linx IAS, which provides real-time feedback on concussive impacts.

The Linx IAS is small device, not too dissimilar to a thin USB memory stick, that athletes wear in a headband or skull cap to monitor the concussive forces on the head. The Linx sends data on impacts via Bluetooth to an app on a tablet or smartphone which then shows to the coach the severity and number of impacts using a simple colour-coded and numeric scale.  If a smartphone isn’t in range, the Linx will store the data until one is nearby. The MSRP is $199 and it’ll be available in Q1 of 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Hexoskin Smart Shirt Now Comes In Small

Hexoskin LogoCanadian outfit Hexoskin has been in the wearables market longer than most, starting out in 2006 and now has a range of smart shirts with a built-in body metric system to measure heart rate, breathing, activity and sleeping using sensors woven into the fabric of the shirt.

Hexoskin, with the support of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, created sensors made of textile, leaving almost no hardware in the shirt – there’s no watch or tight fitting chest band required. There is a small recording unit that slips into a side pocket on the shirt and communicates with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Both iOS (Apple) and Android phones are supported, and a downloaded app keeps track of all the data. With over 42,000 data points recorded every minute, there’s a fair amount of data.

In addition to the usual metrics, the Hexoskin system also measures heart rate recovery, heart rate variability, breathing rate, breathing volume, activity level, acceleration and cadence, all in real time. These metrics give users the information they need to plan their training programmes and surpass their fitness and athletic goals. Essentially a wearable precision lab, Hexoskin provides its users with high quality metrics in real time – these are tools for people serious about their performance.

Today, Hexoskin announced child and youth sizes for the Hexoskin shirt, making it the world’s first biometric smart shirt tailor-made for kids and teens. Adapted to fit all the same sensors of the adult shirts into the smaller shirt size, the Hexoskin Junior will be available in sizes XXS to XL.

Hexoskin Kids

Youth athletics are popular all over the world,” said Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, Co-Founder and CEO of Hexoskin.  “Whether it’s hockey, baseball, football, soccer, volleyball or track & field, kids are part of intense training programs that are training them to become champions and Olympians.  With the addition of Hexoskin Junior, we’ve set out to provide coaches, parents and kids the invaluable tools our adult shirts provide.

By reviewing the data before, during and after workout sessions, users can exert maximum training effort, while still avoiding fatigue, overtraining and injuries.  This is particularly important with young athletes, especially since they are still growing and can be at a greater risk for injury than adult athletes.

Hexoskin Junior is available for pre-order in sizes XXS to XL and will retail for $149 for the shirt alone. A full starter pack with monitoring devices is $379. Not cheap but if you are going for gold, it’s probably money well spent. For more information, visit www.hexoskin.com.

Fitbit Flex Review

Fitbit LogoOver the past year, I’ve noticed more and more people wearing activity tracking devices and here in Northern Ireland I tend to see Fitbits rather than anything else.  Fitbit has been advertising on TV lately too with “It’s All Fit” and I’m sure that there will be a good number of Zips, Flexes and Charges under the Christmas tree come 25th December. I’ve worn a Zip for nearly two years as part of my efforts to keep my weight down and on review today I have the next model up, the Fitbit Flex. Let’s take a look.

FItbit Flex Package

The Fitbit Flex comes in a neat transparent package that shows off the coloured wristband and opening the packaging reveals the fitness tracker itself, large and small wrist bands, a USB sync dongle and a USB charging dock.

Fitbit Flex Contents

The fitness tracker itself is the small black rectangular unit and it’s slipped inside a small pocket in the wristband to be worn both during the day and asleep at night. The wristbands are made of a soft plastic and are available in ten different colours with additional coloured bands on sale from Fitbit’s online store. The large size fitted me well and the smaller one will suit women and children. It’s not obvious in the pictures, but the Flex uses a push-through buckle to keep the band on. It’s a little tricky to get clicked in sometimes, but it keeps the wristband on and in the two weeks of testing I’ve not had any problems with the Flex falling off accidentally. The Flex is supposed to be water resistant to 10m (30ft) and while I didn’t go that deep, it did survive 1000m of surface swimming.

The tracker has a set of LEDs which show through the transparent plastic window on the wrist band. The user interface is simple with five round LEDs used to communicate with the owner and at a basic level, each dot represents a fifth of the way towards the daily target. For example, if the target is 10,000 steps, one LED is worth 2,000 steps. The picture below shows the tracker has measured 6,000 steps, give or take. Normally none of the lights are on but tap on the band at the tracker and the lights come on.

Fitbit Flex

The Flex has an internal rechargeable battery which lasts about 5 days between charges. To charge the Flex up, the tracker unit is taken out of the wristband and placed in the USB charging cradle which in turn is plugged into any available USB port. Charging is relatively quick, typically taking less than an hour.

Getting the activity data off the Flex is easy too, with syncing available between the Flex and both PCs and smartphones. Fitbit is agnostic with clients available for Windows, Macs, Android and iOS, though check compatibility to be sure as the phone or tablet has to support the Low Energy (LE) version of Bluetooth. Syncing with a desktop or laptop is a case of downloading and installing the app, sticking the USB dongle in and getting going. The dongle and Flex are pre-paired so there’s nothing to worry about there. Sync to a phone is similar – download the app from the relevant store and run it. The app will automatically search for the Flex and connect up. A Fitbit login is needed from fitbit.com and signing up for that is free. There’s a full lifestyle portal online which gives access to fitness stats from any web browser.

Personally I used my Flex almost exclusively with my Android phone (Nexus 4) and tablet (Nexus 9). The app shows daily activity, sleep patterns and can record exercise, weight, food and water if the information is added in conscientiously.

Flex Summary  Flex Summar

Different views of the data can be shown – on the left below is a weekly view. Contrary to indications, I didn’t spend Saturday lounging in front of the TV, but forgot to put the Flex on! The Flex can also track sleep patterns, though it can’t automatically detect sleep and needs the wearer to indicate the approximate time of going to bed and getting up.

Weekly Flex Summary  Flex Sleep Tracking

The Flex unit can vibrate too and vibration is used to give feedback to the wearer on attaining goals. It can be used as an alarm as well and although I wasn’t really keen on wearing the Flex in bed, the wake-up alarm worked well for me, prodding me to stir when I’d turned my other alarm off. I don’t normally wear a watch in bed so I did find wearing the Flex at night a little odd but that’s very much a personal feeling.

In the two weeks I used the Flex, I didn’t come across any other problems bar one time that the unit needed reset. I’m not sure what happened: I think I might have tried to sync with the Flex from both phone and the tablet at the same time but resetting the Flex was simple using the normal paperclip-in-reset-hole and no activity data was lost.

I came to this review as a Fitbit Zip wearer and to start with, I did think that the Flex was a little bit of a backward step as I couldn’t see the number of paces that I’d taken – the Zip shows this information on a small LCD screen.  However, over the course of the trial, I’ve got used to it and if I really want to know, I can do a quick sync with my phone to get the data. The Flex is much better than the Zip when it comes to wearing during activity and doesn’t get accidentally pulled off or left in the locker on trousers. The water resistance of the Flex is a bonus too. One downside is that the Flex doesn’t tell the time, so it can’t replace a wristwatch. For many people this isn’t an issue as they don’t wear a watch but for those who do, the Fitbit Charge is perhaps the answer.

The Fitbit Flex is priced at £79.99 RRP but can be found a little cheaper on-line.

Thanks to Fitbit for providing the Flex for review.

Garmin VIRB Action Camera

Garmin VIRBGarmin are well known for their satnavs and GPS-based devices but a new range of wearable action cameras were announced at this year’s CES. Todd chats to Maddy about the new cams.

Garmin’s VIRB range of action cameras are 1080p HD video cameras in a ruggedised and waterproof (IPX7) case, with a built-in 1.4″ display and around 3 hours of recording time. There’s full range of accessories and the VIRB camera comes with an industry mounts compatible adaptor so existing gear can be potentially re-used.

The basic VIRB is $299 and the VIRB Elite is $399. Available now.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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