Outdoors + Tech newsletter – October 19, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for October 19, 2020



Seattle opens new bike lane downtown with plans to extend it this fall

Seattle Times, Heidi Groover from

… Before COVID-19, about 3% of people commuting to downtown for work got there by bike, according to a Commute Seattle survey. City bike counters tallied about 560,000 rides on the Second Avenue bike lane downtown last year, or roughly 10,800 a week.

To make room for the bike lane on Fourth, SDOT removed some parking and loading areas. In some areas, the leftmost travel lane is open for travel during the busiest morning and afternoon hours, then converted to a loading zone for the rest of the day. In other places, the street does not have a loading zone because of turn lanes.

Google’s latest smartwatch app skipped its own watches for Apple’s

The Verge, Ian Carlos Campbell from

YouTube Music launched yesterday on the Apple Watch, arriving before an official Wear OS version and only further illustrating Google’s ongoing issues with its competing wearable platform. The app — available to YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Premium subscribers — mirrors all the same features it launched with on iOS, but now in compact watchOS form. Users can stream, control playback, and even cast music from their wrist, complete with a nice complication for Apple Watch watchfaces.

Landing on the Apple Watch first shows Google’s commitment to growing YouTube Music’s audience. Apple still controls half the smartwatch market, so showing up is ultimately in Google’s favor. But skipping Wear OS at launch underlines how hobbled Google’s platform has been from the start. A small install base and slow development of processors from partner Qualcomm has led to Wear OS lagging behind competitors Apple and Samsung for years.

The release of Qualcomm’s newer chips, the Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100 Plus, aims to solve the speed issues that hurt past Wear OS devices. Paired with a Wear OS update this fall that focuses on streamlined interface elements, there’s hope Google’s partners can develop devices better suited to compete with Apple’s market dominance.

non-wrist wearable

New device monitors blood glucose levels using radar and AI

ΑΙhub, University of Waterloo from

New technology can quickly and accurately monitor glucose levels in people with diabetes without painful finger pricks to draw blood. A palm-sized device developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo uses radar and artificial intelligence (AI) to non-invasively read blood inside the human body.

“The key advantage is simply no pricking,” said George Shaker, an engineering professor at Waterloo. “That is extremely important for a lot of people, especially elderly people with very sensitive skin and children who require multiple tests throughout the day.”

About the same size as existing glucometers, the rectangular device works by sending radio waves through the skin and into blood vessels when users place the tip of their finger on a touchpad. The waves are then reflected back to the device for signal processing and analysis by a machine learning algorithm (principal component analysis), telling users within seconds whether their blood sugar has gone up, down or remained the same.


Statistical model improves analysis of skin conductance

MIT News, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory from

Electrodermal activity (EDA) — the sweat-induced fluctuations of skin conductance made famous in TV dramatizations of lie-detector tests — can be a truly strong indicator of subconscious, or “sympathetic,” nervous system activity for all kinds of purposes, but only if it is analyzed optimally. In a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an MIT-based team of scientists provides a new, fast, and accurate statistical model for analyzing EDA.

“Only so much of EDA is intuitive just by looking at the signal,” says Sandya Subramanian, a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program and the study’s lead author. Meanwhile, existing mathematical methods of analysis either compute averages of the signal that obscure its instantaneous nature, or inefficiently force measurements into a fit with signal processing models that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the body.

Artificial Intelligence in Fitness Is Upgrading Home Workouts

Well+Good, Rachel Lapidos from

Historically, to get the most individualized attention and assistance with your fitness regimen, you needed to turn to (and shell out for) a personal trainer. But times are a-changin’. Now, advancements in artificial intelligence (A.I.) are bringing that same sort of feedback-based personalization to the digital fitness space, making the experience of having a personal trainer more accessible than ever for those without bottomless pocketbooks or gym memberships.

Back in 2017, market research done by ReportLinker estimated that the global digital fitness industry would grow 33 percent to reach $27.4 billion by 2022, and—judging by the mega boom of workouts that moved to the digital space due to COVID-19—it’s well on its way to meet that projection (and then some). Now, A.I. is being used to make at-home workouts safer, more personal, and as close to an in-studio experience as possible (all the more alluring since the ability to hit up a gym or fitness class may not happen anytime soon). Innovators are utilizing A.I. in two major ways: with form-adjusting technology through apps and pieces of fitness equipment, and by learning your exercise and recovery behavior to make personalized recommendations.


Go outside the ‘pool,’ like this Speedo innovator, to find new ideas

Detroit Free Press, Josh Linkner from

Fiona Fairhurst was facing a challenge. The competitive swimmer headed up Speedo’s research and development division and was charged with inventing a new swimsuit for Olympic athletes to help them win in their ultra-competitive sport.

Prevailing wisdom at that time was to make swimsuits as small and smooth as possible. If you’ve ever seen the cringe-worthy dad at a public beach wearing a suit that is far too small, you know exactly what I mean.

Instead of pursuing an incremental gain based on conventional approaches, Fairhurst took a more open-minded view. For inspiration, she began to study the fastest aquatic animals in the sea. Realizing that sharks were among the quickest, she drew inspiration from the high-speed predators to completely reimagine what a swimsuit could be.

The Speedo FastSkin suit looks nothing like its predecessors.

Three-quarters of runners tested were wearing the wrong sized running shoes, are you?

Runner's World, Cindy Kuzma from

Zero-drop, carbon-fibre plates, minimalist or maximalist – runners love to discuss and debate the latest shoe types and features. Far fewer long-run chats and online forums are dedicated to discussing running-shoe size. But how well a shoe matches the length, width and shape of your feet may actually matter as much, if not more than, as the cushioning that goes underneath them. ‘From a kinetic-chain standpoint, your foot is the first point of contact with the ground; your whole skeletal structure is supported by your feet,’ says exercise physiologist Allison Bowersock. Here’s how to find a shoe that fits – and what can go wrong when you wear one that doesn’t.

How To: Backpacking with Jim Zellers & Alex Honnold

YouTube, The North Face from

Team athletes Jim Zellers and Alex Honnold are here to give you advice so you can check out, unplug and spend some time listening to the birds. [video, 10:48]


New life for used clothing made from blended fibres

Innovation in Textiles blog from

“The mountains of old clothes are growing massively and are largely destroyed instead of being recycled and returned to the textile industry. Old textiles are a valuable raw material that can be easily reused,” says imat-uve, an innovative, independent development and engineering company, based in Mönchengladbach, Germany.

imat-uve is working with a German-Dutch project consortium on an industrial solution for the recycling of old clothes made from mixed fibres. The recycled yarns and woven fabrics made from them, are primarily intended for use in the automotive industry.

“1.01 million tons of textiles, old clothes and new garments that have never been worn end up in the trash in Germany alone every year (source: BSVE),” imat-uve points out. “So far, there is no possibility to process these quantities of old textiles in a high-quality way. Most of the textiles are burned or processed to low quality nonwovens. The problem is the different components of the clothing, which in most cases are not made of pure but mixed fibres.”

Graphene to Transform Healthcare and Biomedicine

Printed Electronics World, Graphene Flagship from

Could graphene transform the future of healthcare? Several partners of international research initiative the Graphene Flagship, along with some of its industry-led Spearhead Projects and spin-off companies, are working on exciting developments that could bring new graphene-based medical devices to the market. Here, Tom Foley, Graphene Flagship science writer and communications coordinator, highlights six of these promising initiatives. … One such example is CHEMsens, an initiative to develop a graphene-based plaster sensor for human skin. Graphene enables the quick detection and analysis of key biological constants, like the levels of sodium, potassium, lactic acid and glucose in sweat.


10 Tips to Make Winter Running Less Miserable

Runner's World, Yishane Lee from

… Luring yourself out the door with the promise of a reward at the end—whether it be a catch-up with a friend or brunch—works. “Set a date to meet someone for a run,” says Jean M., a Runner’s World reader in Colorado. “There’s no wimping out when someone is waiting.”

Usually in January and February, the Running Room in Edmonton, Alberta, hosts the Hypothermic Half Marathon, which attracts 3,500 runners in 14 cities across Canada—even at temps as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. “There’s a big, free brunch afterward,” says John Stanton, the founder. “People will do anything for omelets and pancakes.” Solo? “Tell yourself that you can go back inside after five minutes if it’s really bad,” says Patti Finke, a coach in Portland, Oregon. “Usually, you stay out there.”

Should we change how people run?

Tom Goom, Running Physio blog from

Whether we should try to change a runner’s technique is a question that divides opinion amongst runners, therapists and coaches. It’s one of my favourite discussion points in Running Repairs Online.

Some say, ‘Yes! It can reduce loading, help pain and improve technique’ others offer a firm, ‘No! We find the optimal technique ourselves over thousands of miles of running, don’t mess around with it!’

In fact, with one world class athlete who I was very fortunate to work with, his coaching team wouldn’t even let us assess his gait! They were so concerned we might alter his winning technique! [video, 10:45]

Just realized I don’t know what “hiking” is.

Twitter, Ian Bogost from

Is it when you walk on a trail instead of a paved surface? What about road-like unpaved surfaces? Do there need to be grade-changes? Is it defined by length, no matter location?

When does a walk become a hike?


How Does the Body Regulate Temperature?

BrainFacts/SfN, Michael W. Richardson from

When selecting an outfit for the day, you might turn to your phone, TV, or nearest window to check the weather. A 10-degree temperature shift could mean the difference between grabbing a light jacket or rolling up your sleeves on a nice day.

Your body is even more vigilant about regulating and tracking its internal temperature. Neuroscientist Shaun Morrison of Oregon Health & Science University explains how the body and brain regulate temperature, and what happens when things go awry.

What Fuels the Beating Heart? Study Reveals Nutrients Used by Normal and Failing Hearts

University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine News from

A team led by scientists in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has produced a detailed picture of fuel and nutrient use by the human heart. The study, published this week in Science, was the first of its kind, involving the simultaneous sampling of blood from different parts of the circulatory system in dozens of human participants, in order to record the levels of related molecules going into and coming out of the beating heart.

The resulting data have revealed key features of fuel use in the normal heart as well as the failing heart, establishing a new framework for studying the heart in health and disease.

“Understanding, at this level of detail, how the heart handles fuel and nutrients should inform the development of future treatments for heart failure and related conditions,” said study senior author Zoltan Arany, MD, PhD, a professor of Medicine and director of the Cardiovascular Metabolism Program at Penn Medicine. “Now that we have a clear picture of how the heart fuels itself, we can set our sights on devising ways to improve heart metabolism in heart failure.”

public lands

Water is Life

Alpinist.com, Len Necefer from

… As Navajos we view the boundaries of our historic homeland as an area outlined by the four sacred mountains now covering vast stretches of what is now the four corners region of the southwestern US. By the mid-nineteenth century, the settler-colonial belief in Manifest Destiny fueled westward expansion into the Southwest. US troops soon arrived to address what they saw as the “Navajo problem” that encompassed conflicts with American and Spanish settlers. A scorched-earth campaign soon followed. I remember hearing the stories from my grandfather and uncle about how the Calvary came in the autumn and burned crops and houses. Thousands fled into canyons and the mountains to avoid capture. By the end of the campaign in 1864, over 10,000 Navajos were forced into a makeshift prison camp near Window Rock, Arizona. Weeks later, the US forced the captive Navajos to march three hundred miles in winter to a concentration camp in eastern New Mexico. Many died from exposure and starvation on the journey; many more were executed trailside when they could not keep up. My ancestors stayed at the camp known as Hweeldi, the “place of suffering” in Navajo, until June 1868, when the US Government and Navajo leaders negotiated a treaty to allow my ancestors to return to a small part of our homeland. But the treaty did not include the areas of the four major sacred mountains. Today, many of the lands where our sacred sites are located are part of the federal public land system.

10 great National Historic Trails

USA Today Travel, Larry Bleiberg from

One of the best ways to learn history is to literally follow in the footsteps of those who were there, says Karen Berger, author of the new book, “America’s National Historic Trails” (Rizzoli, $55).

“These are historic routes – a trail version of the National Park system,” she says. The 19 federally recognized trails range from 54 to 5,000 miles, and pass largely through rural areas, making them perfect for road trips and socially distant traveling.

The author shares some favorites with USA TODAY.


Why Amazon and Panasonic are betting on this battery recycling startup

TechCrunch, Kirsten Korosec from

Former Tesla CTO JB Straubel aims to make Redwood Materials one of the world’s largest battery recyclers

AI Is Throwing Battery Development Into Overdrive

WIRED, Science, Daniel Oberhaus from

Inside a lab at Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, there are a half dozen refrigerator-sized cabinets designed to kill batteries as fast as they can. Each holds around 100 lithium-ion cells secured in trays that can charge and discharge the batteries dozens of times per day. Ordinarily, the batteries that go into these electrochemical torture chambers would be found inside gadgets or electric vehicles, but when they’re put in these hulking machines, they aren’t powering anything at all. Instead, energy is dumped in and out of these cells as fast as possible to generate reams of performance data that will teach artificial intelligence how to build a better battery.

In 2019, a team of researchers from Stanford, MIT, and the Toyota Research Institute used AI trained on data generated from these machines to predict the performance of lithium-ion batteries over the lifetime of the cells before their performance had started to slip. Ordinarily, AI would need data from after a battery had started to degrade in order to predict how it would perform in the future. It might take months to cycle the battery enough times to get that data. But the researchers’ AI could predict lifetime performance after only hours of data collection, while the battery was still at its peak. “Prior to our work, nobody thought that was possible,” says William Chueh, a materials scientist at Stanford and one of the lead authors of the 2019 paper.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.