Outdoors + Tech newsletter – October 11, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for October 11, 2020



Polar’s latest flagship fitness watch focuses on workout recovery

Engadget, Daniel Cooper from

These days, the majority of wearables updates center on evolution rather than revolution since most of them are already plenty good enough. Polar’s newest flagship multi-sport watch, the Vantage V2, embraces this idea with a greater focus on the period of time around your workout. The emphasis is on determining whether you’re ready to do a full workout, and when you’ll feel the benefit of going hard on a given day.

That means that you’ll be able to test and see if your legs are ready for a training session with a new, “Leg Recovery Test.” That’s a similar set of insights that you’ve been able to enjoy on other Polar watches, like the Ignite, albeit with a focus on specific muscle groups.

Similarly, being able to run through running and cycling performance tests will enable you to set personal heart rate, speed and power zones. That should help you better target your own best performance goals.

All About The Apple Watch With Alan Dye, John Gruber, & Om Malik

Hodinkee Radio from

A comprehensive deep-dive into Apple’s latest smartwatch. [audio, 1:13:28]

Apple Watch Series 6 review: faster, cheaper, still the best

The Guardian, Samuel Gibbs from

The new top-end Apple Watch Series 6 is slightly faster, brighter and cheaper with a new sensor – and does just enough to stay the king of smartwatches.

Smartphone extensions: Smartwatch makers upgrade premium watches

USA Today Tech, Mike Feibus from

Smartwatch makers have caught up with each others’ innovations. So if you have your heart set on a watch with built-in ECG or blood-oxygen sensing, or SpO2, then Apple or Fitbit, respectively, aren’t your only choices anymore.

The major brands now all have ECG, SpO2, fall detection/SOS and VO2 Max, an important fitness measure.

Of course, the real value comes not so much from collecting more data, but how well the devices help you translate what the numbers mean for your health and what you can do to improve.

​Fitbit Sense review: the right device for these strange times

Wareable (UK), James Stables from

The Fitbit Sense is a new line from the fitness tracking company, and one attempts to re-align Fitbit as a health brand instead.

While the Fitbit Sense looks like another Fitbit smartwatch, it’s actually a heath data powerhouse, brimming with sensors designed to put you in touch with the inner workings of your body and mind.

non-wrist wearable

Can £190 leggings really teach you yoga: And other ‘smart’ fitness wear to boost your workout

Daily Mail Online, Rachel Carlyle from

Not all that long ago, gym gear meant a baggy cotton T-shirt and a pair of old tracky bottoms.

But fabrics are now so technical your leggings can apparently do everything from creating infrared energy to vibrating to correct your yoga pose.

Connected PPE and new ways to assess health and performance

Innovation in Textiles blog from

Myant Inc., a global pioneer in textile computing, has unveiled concept designs for connected PPE that utilize VOC sensing, enabling new ways of holistically assessing health and performance as part of an expanding interconnected system of biometric garments being realized by the company.

‘Smart mask’ designed by multidisciplinary team of URI students

University of Rhode Island, URI Today from

Health agencies recommend wearing a face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others. But what if a face mask could be used as much more than a mitigation strategy in the battle against COVID-19?

A team of students at the University of Rhode Island has developed a “smart mask” named RespDetect that can quantitatively monitor COVID-19 symptoms.

Using a respiration sensor in the mask, a throat microphone and an ear temperature sensor, a patient’s breathing rate, body temperature and coughing rate can be monitored wirelessly using an app. A health care provider can then use the data to determine the best course of treatment for someone experiencing symptoms of the virus.


What would the world do without GPS?

BBC Future, David Hambling from

Satellite navigation systems keep our world running in ways many people barely realise, but they are also increasingly vulnerable. What could we use instead?

When satellite navigation was jammed at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport last year, only the skill of the air traffic controllers prevented serious accidents. The jamming was apparently accidental, originating with Russian forces fighting in Syria, but it highlighted just how dangerous interruptions to the global positioning system – better known as GPS – can be.

“There is a growing recognition of the need to protect, toughen, and augment GPS,” says Todd Humphreys, a communications engineer at the University of Texas, Austin. GPS now underpins a surprising amount of our everyday lives. In its simplest form it tells us where on Earth at any time a GPS receiver is. We have them in our mobile phones and cars. They enable boats to navigate their way through difficult channels and reefs, like a modern-day lighthouse. Emergency services now rely upon GPS to locate those in distress.

New Study Predicts Marathon Performance from Wearable Data

Podium Runner, Richard A. Lovett from

Preparing for a marathon, one of the most critical steps is making an objective assessment of your training to determine what you are (and are not) likely to be capable of doing in the race. But unless you’ve run a fair number of marathons (and have done one or more benchmark workouts late in your training against which to assess your fitness), this can be more guesswork than science. Worse, it’s guesswork that can be easily influenced by optimism that can turn the latter part of the race into a depressing slog if that optimism proves unwarranted.

Scientists from France and Finland, however, have come up with a way to make such predictions from smart-watch data logged during your last six months of training. In a study in today’s issue of Nature Communications (a companion to the prestigious journal Nature), they were able to estimate thousands of runners’ race times to within, on average, about 2 percent of the times they actually ran. To put that in perspective, that’s about 3½ minutes, one way or the other, for 3:00 marathoners: not perfect, but very good.

We have a recommendation for that

Twitter, TensorFlow from

Introducing TensorFlow Recommenders, an open-source package that makes building, evaluating, and serving recommender models easy. Find recommendations for movies, restaurants, and much more!

Get started → https://goo.gle/2HrCwDq


How Garmin survived the iPhone and started growing again

CNBC, Evolve, Robert Ferris from

… the Kansas-based tech company has orchestrated a successful second act by building niche businesses in smartwatches, navigation for boats and airplanes and other segments. The company has even begun to rebuild its automotive business, but this time as direct supplier to automakers such as BMW.

Sensor technology and wafer-thin materials for more vitality at work

Innovation Origins, Corine Spaans from

The light and temperature of an office are automatically adjusted to the personal state of mind of employees for optimal performance. Futuristic perhaps, but something that students, researchers and the business community within the POWEr FITTing project will investigate over the next four years. The knowledge institutes of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the research organizations imec and TNO and the Eindhoven field hockey club Oranje Rood are working together on this project which seeks ways to provide more vitality in the workplace. As of September 1 of this year, it makes up part of the Eindhoven Engine, a co-location project where people from different backgrounds, such as industry, knowledge institutes and government, work together on applied research projects.

First Glucose Biosensor Designed for Athletes

Wearable Technology Insights from

Abbott is introducing the world’s first glucose sport biosensor, Libre Sense Glucose Sport Biosensor, which is designed for athletes to continuously measure glucose to better understand the correlation between their glucose levels and their athletic performance. The Libre Sense biosensor is based on Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring technology, which was originally developed for people living with diabetes. Based on that technology, this is the first personal-use product that allows for use beyond diabetes.


FUTURECRAFT Exploring the Upper Limits: Meet the New Textile Innovation That Changes How We Create Footwear

Adidas; Fionn Corcoran-Tadd, Benjamin Kleiman, Ian Hennebery & Clemens Dyckmans from

As is the case with many innovation journeys, it started in a basement with a small but dedicated group of the adidas Future team. The original inspiration came from architecture and some interesting experiments where we saw robotics used in a creative way to build fibre structures. But it was clear from the start that there was no script. With other technologies, there are other people doing similar things, but not with this. The fact that there is no real precedent means the journey is both exciting and frustrating. We’re writing the script as we go, so there’s a lot of trial and error, although our vision is always clear.

We wanted to see how we as a team could interact with robotics and athlete data in a meaningful, creative way. The process of creating and refining new STRUNG software, hardware and prototypes led to increased buy-in and more and more people joining as development became more complex. The travel restrictions that came with the pandemic brought its own challenges, but we were able to navigate some of these and maximise our efficiency due to having connected STRUNG robots on three continents. This allowed upper designs to be sent on to each machine remotely, meaning refinement work was ongoing around the clock.

The best sports bra uses non-Newtonian fluid

Popular Science, Claire Maldarelli from

Reebok’s vice president for apparel talks about how researchers perfected compression technology in a sports bra.

Google teams up with Samsonite to launch a Jacquard smart fabric-enabled backpack

TechCrunch, Frederic Lardinois from

It has been over four years since Project Jacquard, Google’s smart fabric technology, made its debut at the I/O developer conference. Launched out of what was then Google’s ATAP unit, Jacquard is currently best known for being available on Levi’s jeans jackets, but Saint Laurent also launched its $1,000 Cit-e Backpack with built-in Jacquard technology. Today, Google is adding a fourth product to the Jacquard lineup with the launch of the Samsonite Konnect-i backpacker, which, at $200 for the Slim version and $220 for the Standard edition, is a bit more friendly on the wallet than the Saint Laurent backpack.

Jacquard, in case you need a refresher, is Google’s technology for adding touch sensitivity to fabrics.

Why You Need to Wash Your GORE-TEX Jacket! | Miranda in the Wild

YouTube, REI from

If you’ve noticed water soaking into your waterproof GORE-TEX jacket, I have some good news: it isn’t dead! It turns out that GORE-TEX needs some easy care to properly function in keeping you dry and comfortable. I partnered with GORE-TEX to teach you why, how and when to care for your GORE-TEX jacket – and to show you what a difference it can make!


Inflight fiber printing toward array and 3D optoelectronic and sensing architectures

Science Advances journal from

Scalability and device integration have been prevailing issues limiting our ability in harnessing the potential of small-diameter conducting fibers. We report inflight fiber printing (iFP), a one-step process that integrates conducting fiber production and fiber-to-circuit connection. Inorganic (silver) or organic {PEDOT:PSS [poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate]} fibers with 1- to 3-μm diameters are fabricated, with the fiber arrays exhibiting more than 95% transmittance (350 to 750 nm). The high surface area–to–volume ratio, permissiveness, and transparency of the fiber arrays were exploited to construct sensing and optoelectronic architectures. We show the PEDOT:PSS fibers as a cell-interfaced impedimetric sensor, a three-dimensional (3D) moisture flow sensor, and noncontact, wearable/portable respiratory sensors. The capability to design suspended fibers, networks of homo cross-junctions and hetero cross-junctions, and coupling iFP fibers with 3D-printed parts paves the way to additive manufacturing of fiber-based 3D devices with multilatitude functions and superior spatiotemporal resolution, beyond conventional film-based device architectures. [full text]

Transparent fibre sensors ‘smell, hear and touch’

The Engineer from

The transparent conducting fibres are 100 times thinner than a human hair and could be applied to health monitoring, Internet of Things devices and biosensing.

The fibre printing technique, reported in Science Advances, can be used to make non-contact, wearable, portable respiratory sensors. According to Cambridge University, these printed sensors are high-sensitivity, low-cost and can be attached to a mobile phone to collect breath pattern information, sound and images simultaneously.

First author Andy Wang, a PhD student from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, used the fibre sensor to test the amount of breath moisture leaked through his face covering, for respiratory conditions such as normal breathing, rapid breathing, and simulated coughing. The fibre sensors are said to have significantly outperformed comparable commercial sensors, particularly in monitoring rapid breathing, which replicates shortness of breath.

Robotic Fabric: A Breakthrough with Many Uses

Yale University, Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science from

The lab of Prof. Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio has created a robotic fabric that includes actuation, sensing, and variable stiffness fibers while retaining all the qualities that make fabric so useful – flexibility, breathability, small storage footprint, and low weight. They demonstrated their robotic fabric going from a flat, ordinary fabric to a standing, load-bearing structure. They also showed a wearable robotic tourniquet and a small airplane with stowable/deployable fabric wings. The results are published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers focused on processing functional materials into fiber-form so they could be integrated into fabrics while retaining its advantageous properties. For example, they made variable stiffness fibers out of an epoxy embedded with particles of Field’s metal, an alloy that liquifies at relatively low temperatures. When cool, the particles are solid metal and make the material stiffer; when warm, the particles melt into liquid and make the material softer.


Why Experts Are Exploring Climbing as a Form of Therapy

Outside Online, Ula Chrobak from

Bouldering psychotherapy is gaining traction because the sport is unique in its easy access and ability to draw out emotions

The Pandemic Injury Syndrome

Podium Runner, Jonathan Beverly from

What if you suddenly had twice the time to train? What would you do? Not to be a downer, but you’d probably get injured.

That was the consensus among a group of four leading sports podiatrist I had the privilege of interviewing on their RPM2 podcast last week. Matt Werd of Florida Foot and Ankle says he’s seen more than the usual stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon issue and the like since the start of the pandemic. “People have been stuck at home, not going to work, so they had extra hour of two not commuting,” Werd says. “Not only people who never exercised, even people who were seasoned, experienced — now they had time to train more, go faster, do new things. They took the opportunity to train harder, do more.”

Poor Sleep and Loneliness: A Vicious Cycle?

Psychology Today, Art Markman from

The feeling of being lonely is the sense that you have less social contact with others than you want. It is not quite the same as the amount of social contact you have. Some people don’t engage that often with others, but they are perfectly fine with that, and so they don’t feel alone. Other people may spend a lot of time with others, but may still feel like they crave other social engagements. Being lonely is associated with poorer psychological and physical health.

One area of research has focused specifically on the relationship between loneliness and sleep. There are several inter-related questions: Is feeling lonely related to the quality of people’s sleep? What aspects of sleep are related to loneliness?


A Systems Thinking Approach to Building a Cycling Culture

Urban Cycling Institute, Cécile Lecoq from

When we think about encouraging more people to bike, we tend to focus solely on infrastructure. This mindset is embodied in the phrase “build it and they will come” that is often heard among bike advocates. While ensuring people’s safety is a sine qua non condition, it is not the only aspect of a successful cycling culture, as demonstrated by the “Unraveling the Cycling City” online course.

The Dutch cycling culture is the result of a “combination of factors, including bicycle-friendly representations, strong bourgeois cultures, urban-planning choices, late automobility, and governmental policies” (Oldenziel and de la Bruhèze 2011). Indeed, the key to getting people on bikes is “the coordinated implementation of a multi-faceted, mutually reinforcing set of policies” (Pucher and Buehler 2008).

Among the historical factors that contributed to the success of cycling in the Netherlands were public outcry in reaction to traffic deaths, such as the famous Stop de Kindermoord protests.


Next Generation Satellite Navigation Will Offer Centimeter Accuracy — at a Price

Discover Magazine, The Physics arXiv Blog from

Mega-constellations of satellites, like SpaceX’s Starlink, could offer commercial navigation services with centimeter accuracy. Here’s how.

How to Monitor Your Running Beyond Miles Per Week

Podium Runner, Amby Burfoot from

By measuring biomechanical stress, you may be able to reduce injuries and improve training and racing, says a new paper.

Science of champion runners: inside the body of elite endurance athletes

The Conversation, Andy Galbraith from

The 40th anniversary of the London Marathon takes place on Sunday, October 4 2020. Athletes will run on a closed-loop circuit around St James’s Park before finishing on The Mall. This year’s lineup includes current champions Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. These athletes can run for more than two hours at speeds an average person could maintain for only a matter of seconds. So what makes them so fast?

public lands

Getting into nature could benefit your mental health during the pandemic

CBC News (Canada), What on Earth newsletter from

There’s little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on people’s mental health. The isolation, concern about the virus itself and worries about employment can all be a huge psychological burden. But a new study suggests “awe walks” might help.

In a small study published in the journal Emotions, researchers found that a trip through nature — like a forest or park — can boost positive emotions.

In the study, which looked at the mental health of older adults, 60 participants in California were asked to take 15-minute walks every day for eight weeks, with some assigned to awe walks and others who weren’t given instructions about where to walk.

Nearly 200 Miles Of Fiber Optic Cable Proposed To Network Yellowstone

National Parks Traveler from

Nearly 200 miles of fiber optic cable would be buried through Yellowstone National Park under a proposal officials say would improve cellphone coverage and reliability while also allowing for the removal of “antiquated telecommunication systems currently on mountain tops and from the backcountry.”

The proposal, now open for public comment, stems from an application for a right-of-way permit from Diamond Communications, LLC.

New ADK-9 hiking challenge brings dog-friendly option to the Adirondacks

New York Upstate, Sunny Hernandez from

For Upstate New York hikers and their canine companions, there’s a new Adirondacks challenge made just for them.

Phil Galuppi, a Liverpool resident, was home during the state shutdown amidst the coronavirus pandemic when he began to plan a new hiking challenge. The idea came when he said he was reading stories about people taking their dogs to the Adirondack high peaks, not knowing the terrain of the trail or how daunting it might be for a dog, and having to be rescued.

On July 5 he launched the ADK-9 Hiking Challenge which features nine dog friendly hikes in the Adirondack State Park. The mountains he chose are spread out and are some of the lesser known trails.


Solid electrolyte materials could improve safety and performance of lithium-ion batteries

Stanford University, Stanford Energy, Precourt Institute from

Stanford University scientists have identified a new class of solid materials that could replace flammable liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries.

The low-cost materials – made of lithium, boron and sulfur – could improve the safety and performance of electric cars, laptops and other battery-powered devices, according to the scientists. Their findings are published in a study in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

“A typical lithium-ion battery has two solid electrodes with a highly flammable liquid electrolyte in between,” said study lead author Austin Sendek, a visiting scholar in Stanford’s Department of Materials Science & Engineering. “Our goal is to design stable, low-cost solid electrolytes that also increase the power and energy output of the battery.”

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