Month: January 2016

Atlas Wristband is finally the device gym users need.

Atlas Green Jpeg

Price: £200 including international shipping

Atlas website

If fitness trackers and sports bands are anything to go by all you’d think people do is walk, run and swim. Those who like to stay fit by doing high intensity training or pressing weights have to usually select an option like “freestyle” which might detect some general movement and change in heart rate but never really detect the level of exertion the user was undergoing or what movements they were making. The Atlas Wristband aims to change all that.

Hardware

It pairs two ARM M4 processors with a 3 axis accelerometer and 3 axis gyroscope and an optical heart rate monitor. The creators of the device use the data from these sensors and feed them into their Atlas Engine. This engine has been trained to recognise the unique 3D movements that occur in the arm and wrist as the person is exercising and match this to the 50 exercises ( for now ) stored in its database. There is Coach mode which you select a pre-set routine on your phone and transfer it to the device or Freestyle mode. In Freestyle mode you can choose up-to 15 different exercises from a list of 50 and transfer them to your device. You can then do them in any order you wish and the Atlas will detect what you’re doing and how many reps.

The device should be worn on the left wrist as this was the way the programmes were created. In time it’s hoped the option to wear on the right wrist will come and if you buy the band you’ll be given the option to send your data to Atlas Sweat Lab which will gather user data to further improve tracking and exercise recognition. It’s a great feature that should see the product improve over time.

atlas green with module out

The central module containing the sensors is detachable and must be removed from the band allow charging via micro USB.

Whilst the design is a little odd the style aspect isn’t as great a problem as most trackers or smartwatches as this isn’t designed to be worn all day. You can keep it on your wrist to tell the time but currently it won’t be tracking your movements, steps and heart rate throughout the day. The intention was always that it works for one hour workouts and it should last for 7 days if used like this. Turning it off in between will further conserve power.

Software

Most of the time whilst working out you’re interacting on the fly with your device. Maybe you’re skipping a set as you know you’ve maxed out or perhaps increasing the weight with each set. You will still need to use your phone to sync your activity to the Atlas app before and after a workout. The app interface looks nicely designed. It’s focused on the exercises you are doing, and the map of your body and muscles lets you see what you’re working out. Perhaps more importantly it lets you see what areas you are overlooking.  The app also contains videos of how to correctly perform all the exercises and following these correctly will help improve the accuracy of the tracking too.

The fantastic thing is that you can try out the software and get a feel for how the device will work using a separate app called Atlas Engine. It’s currently free in the Google Play Store and App Store and all you need is your phone and an armband to strap it securely to your left bicep.

The company is looking to add other common exercises like running too which will make it much more flexible as a general fitness device.

The future of this device is interesting as if it’s a success I would not be surprised to see this company snatched up by one of the tech giants. Incorporating this software and hardware into the Apple Watch or Wear devices would bring us one step closer to a genuinely useful universal health tracker.

 

HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift at CES 2016

CES Logo

The dust has settled from CES 2016 and if you missed all the excitement as it happened….well maybe you didn’t miss all that much.

There really wasn’t anything groundbreaking this year at CES but it seems VR headsets were everywhere and heavily promoted. This year will see the start of serious VR but the price is pretty prohibitive and has upset many who were promised it would be more affordable. By serious VR I mean the full on immersive experiences like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pre. Yes there is Google Glass and Samsung Gear VR but these don’t have the processing power and comfort to allow prolonged VR sessions.

Let’s look at the two heavyweights of VR.

HTC Vive Pre

Price:Unknown

Release Date: April 2016

HTC Vive product 1 JPEG resized

This seems to be the one that had people the most excited at CES. They did have a lot of booths about it seems which will have given the chance for more exposure to it so consider that fact. Also on the plus side is that the version shown at CES is still not the version consumers will get with more improvements to come, yet most tech journalists liked this one.

The killer aspect of this version of VR is that you are not limited to the spot. You can actually walk through a game , or walk up to something in a game, bend down to pick it up etc. You are not limited to being on a spot and looking around you like the Oculus Rift. This works by having 2 sensors that you put in the room that shoot out lasers to map the room and where the headset is in relation to everything else. It seems the software can be set to show you a digital boundary on-screen if you are getting too close to walking into your table or TV for example. It also has a front facing camera to allow you to interact with the real world without having to take off the headset. Another win over the Oculus.

A downside is the current version is said to have a slightly poorer resolution than the Oculus and then there is the cable issue. As so much data is passing too and from the headset it needs to be attached to the PC at all time. Which means walking around the room with a long cable trailing behind you. I can’t help but think people could trip over it even with the front facing camera ability.

The companies deal with Steam and Valve makes it a huge boost for gamers with titles like Half Life 1 and 2 being some of the most immersive gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Half Life related title coming exclusively to the Vive Pre.

Pre-orders for developers start at the end of February with consumer units going on sale in April. Whilst the Oculus has its cards on the table HTC remains tight-lipped about the cost.

Oh and don’t forget the cost of the PC if you don’t already own a high-end gaming rig. You’ll be needing it for this or an Oculus.

Oculus Rift

Price: £499

Release Date: April 2016

Oculus-Rift-8

Whilst the Vive Pre might have the tech press clapping their hands in glee Oculus is already out the door with its pricing and pre-order and what you’ll get for your money. Some folks in the retail industry are concerned about this £500 price point however. It’s expensive no doubt but for the money you do get the Oculus Rift headset and camera,  Oculus remote, Xbox One controller, a copy of EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale as well as all the necessary cabling.

The partnership with Xbox may prove a good move longer term but a current advantage is that gamers will be able to stream Xbox One games to their headset and play them as if on a massive TV set. How well this works in terms of lag etc remains to be seen ( I suspect it can’t be as good as playing off a TV set ).

Unlike the Vive Pre you can’t move around with it and it looks a lot more bulky too although those who’ve had hands on have found it comfortable. As it’s designed to be used mainly stationary the cable coming from it should be less of an issue than with the Vive ( which could be a trip hazard? ).

It has the advantage of being the first out the door but the overwhelming press opinion seems to be a firm “wait” and I would echo that. If you are interested you must check out what the PC requirements are. As you would expect they are high-end. If you don’t have this already it’ll cost you upward of £800 to build one but I expect both Oculus and Vive will be bringing out packages with PCs included in time.

If you must get one as soon as possible you can pre-order the Oculus now and the site has a tool to check your PC is powerful enough.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for these to work with a mac. Oculus say it’s something they want to do but there is no timeline for it. Mac has never been a popular choice for gamers and it’s the hard-core gamers that these devices are aimed at so it makes sense they have been designed for PCs.

2016 definitely looks like the year VR really comes a thing but it looks like it’ll be version 2 and a price cut before more widespread adoption.

I can’t wait to have a try!

Asus Zenwatch Hands On

A look at the Asus Zenwatch 2. It’s a great way to experience Android Wear and will work on iOS and Android devices. At £150 it’s a good way to get into wearables.

Pebble Health First Look

I take a quick look at the newly introduced Pebble Health. If you like it please like and share the video.

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