Wearable fitness trackers are excellent, and depending on the one you choose, you’ll enjoy features like calorie, step, and sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and more. They’re selling like hotcakes, with every company who could claim a remote link to the technology pushing their own version.
But what if there was a better way?
What if there was more accuracy? More precision? Something that didn’t rely heavily on estimations and algorithms? Something that was specific to each of your two arms, two legs, and everything in between?
That’s exactly what Silicon Valley start-up Athos is currently creating.
While not scheduled to ship to the masses until Spring 2015, Athos is creating a workout clothing line. Shirts and pants with the core technology sewn (quite literally) right into the fabric. And yes, they’re even machine washable. You can wear them and them alone, or under other workout clothing if you prefer.
What Does This Mean for Me?
There are three components that make up the Athos system: Athos Gear, the clothing you wear; Athos Core, a Bluetooth module that keeps track of all your workout data; and the smartphone app. All three components are required.
Once you’re up and going, the Athos Gear reads your muscle effort, heart and breathing rates, and sends it all to the Core.
Core collects and interprets the data, then sends it to your smartphone.
Within the Athos app, you’ll find actionable insight that helps you exercise correctly, avoid injury, and get the results you’re looking for, faster.
Those last two are the kickers, and what the company is betting consumers will find justifies the $199 Core price and $99 Gear price for each of a shirt and pants.
Keep it in Your Pants
Now let’s talk about the technology behind the magic.
The brains behind the operation, Athos Core, contains a six-axis accelerometer to decipher the motion and contorted angles you find yourselves in, and knowing which way is “up” through it all. It has 10 hours of battery life like an iPad (not that you should work out continuously for that long — ever), it’s shorter than your index finger, and weighs just 20 grams (less than four nickels). It’s impact resistant and built tough, which ensures it’ll power through anything you can.
Sewn right into the pants, you’ll find eight different EMG sensors to track your muscle activity, target zones, and fatigue; and four heart rate sensors. Woven into the shirt are 14 EMG sensors, two heart rate sensors, and two sensors that monitor breathing patterns. They’re non-obtrusive, and Athos says you’ll barely notice they’re there, as they’re made to fit the contours of your body. They don’t chafe, they’re not affected by streams of sweat, there are no wires or cords, and they never need to be replaced.
Even better? They pack all the standard benefits you’d expect out of a good set of workout clothes. They’re moisture and sweat wicking, which keeps you cool and dry, and they’re UPF 50-treated, which helps keep harmful sun rays off your skin during extended, outdoor workouts. And yes, again, they’re machine washable.
This is fascinating stuff. We really are living in the future here, folks.
Athos isn’t the only company pushing the envelope in connected/smart workout clothing here, either.
Already, Sensoria Fitness ships “Smart Socks,” a “Smart Sports Bra,” and a men’s “Smart T-Shirt.” These products do something similar: collect vital body data with pressure sensors, accelerometers, and a smartphone app.
For a while now, Nike has sold a pair of Nike+ Running Shoes that contain built-in sensors which — you guessed it — sync to your smartphone.
A new company called MonDevices is creating the first wearable tech for infants, called MonBaby, that monitors your baby’s heart rate and breathing patterns. While it’s not designed for fitness uses, it just goes to show a different application of the same type of technology.
A year and a half ago, Under Armour showed off a concept “touchscreen” workout shirt that contained a slew of sensors to monitor your workout data and give immediate feedback about your performance.
Still not convinced? Both Harvard University and Stanford University have programs dedicated completely to the study of “smart clothing” and what it means for us going forward. No doubt, their discoveries and research will be used in future products such as those described here.
As always, we’ll continue to keep an eye on the intersection of technology and fitness, and bring you the latest as we hear it. Any questions? Just ask.