Outdoors + Tech newsletter – November 30, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for November 30, 2020



Fitbit study finds heart rate variability fluctuates by age, gender, time of day and activity level

MobiHealthNews, Mallory Hackett from

Using heart rate variability (HRV) data, wrist-worn health trackers can provide a range of predictive cardiovascular health metrics, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

The study, which was funded by Fitbit and used its smartwatches, looked at how devices continuously gathering data from the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system could derive and describe diverse measures of cardiac autonomic function among users.

Best smartwatch: Five things to consider

Popular Science, Eric Alt from

… Smartwatches are essentially lightweight wrist-sized mini-computers that sync via connections with your smartphone or via their own cellular hookups. In addition to time telling, smartwatches offer apps to control music, maps, weather, schedules, calendars, email, shopping, voice activation, reminders, and fitness, and heart rate tracking. Let’s walk through a few key features such as battery life, compatibility of operating systems, display size, ease of use, and sensors for fitness/health tracking.

Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL: The Watch That Will Change the Race

Slowtwitch.com, Brian Gray from

Wahoo’s much rumored multisport watch is here, and it will delight those who want a sport watch, not a wrist computer. The Wahoo RIVAL eschews many smart watch features to focus on performance and ease-of-use for full-distance triathlons. It delivers the essentials for serious athletes along with a couple unique innovations: Touchless Transition and Multisport Handover. Finally, its $379 MSRP is one of its most significant features in a market of endlessly escalating watch prices.

non-wrist wearable

Amazon’s Echo Buds get new fitness tracking features

TechCrunch from

I wasn’t super impressed when I reviewed the Echo Buds around this time last year, but Amazon’s first shot at Alexa-powered fully wireless earbuds was passable. And while they’ve already been on the market for a while now, the company’s continuing to deliver some key updates, including today’s addition of new fitness features.

Say “Alexa, start my workout” with the buds in, and they’ll begin logging steps, calories, distance, pace and duration of runs. Like many new software additions, this one will take a few days to roll out for everyone. This one also requires users to enable the new tracking feature using the Alexa app.


Sensor for smart textiles survives washing machine, cars and hammers

Harvard University, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from

… “Current soft strain gauges are really sensitive but also really fragile,” said Oluwaseun Araromi, a Research Associate in Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering at SEAS and the Wyss Institute and first author of the paper. “The problem is that we’re working in an oxymoronic paradigm — highly sensitivity sensors are usually very fragile and very strong sensors aren’t usually very sensitive. So, we needed to find mechanisms that could give us enough of each property.”

In the end, the researchers created a design that looks and behaves very much like a Slinky.

“A Slinky is a solid cylinder of rigid metal but if you pattern it into this spiral shape, it becomes stretchable,” said Araromi. “That is essentially what we did here. We started with a rigid bulk material, in this case carbon fiber, and patterned it in such a way that the material becomes stretchable.”

‘Electronic skin’ promises cheap and recyclable alternative to wearable devices

University of Colorado Boulder, CU Boulder Today from

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder are developing a wearable electronic device that’s “really wearable”—a stretchy and fully-recyclable circuit board that’s inspired by, and sticks onto, human skin.

The team, led by Jianliang Xiao and Wei Zhang, describes its new “electronic skin” in a paper published today in the journal Science Advances. The device can heal itself, much like real skin. It also reliably performs a range of sensory tasks, from measuring the body temperature of users to tracking their daily step counts.

And it’s reconfigurable, meaning that the device can be shaped to fit anywhere on your body.

“If you want to wear this like a watch, you can put it around your wrist,” said Xiao, an associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. “If you want to wear this like a necklace, you can put it on your neck.”

A pressure sensor at your fingertips: An imperceptible thin-film sensor to record movement and the sense of touch

University of Tokyo, Research News from

Researchers have developed an ultrathin pressure sensor that can be attached directly to the skin. It can measure how fingers interact with objects to produce useful data for medical and technological applications. The sensor has minimal effect on the users’ sensitivity and ability to grip objects, and it is resistant to disruption from rubbing. The team also hopes their sensor can be used for the novel task of digitally archiving the skills of craft workers.

There are many reasons why researchers wish to record motion and other physical details associated with hands and fingers. Our hands are our primary tools for directly interacting with, and manipulating, materials and our immediate environments. By recording the way in which hands perform various tasks, it could help researchers in fields such as sports and medical science, as well as neuroengineering and more. But capturing this data is not easy.


What to wear for every temperature of winter running

Canadian Running Magazine, Madeleine Kelly from

This fall has been a whirlwind of weather. In Ontario, there have been 25-degree days, followed quickly by hail. In other parts of the country, they’ve seen record snowfalls. While the weather isn’t a thrilling topic, it’s an important one for runners who run year-round and want to be comfortable. The right running outfit can make or break a session, and Saucony wants to outfit runners appropriately to ensure they get their mileage in, no matter the weather.

Their fall line of clothes is functional, fashionable and supremely comfortable. With extra attention obviously given to fabrics and functionality, these clothes are the pieces runners need in their fall wardrobe. Here’s a breakdown of the pieces we’ve tried and their ideal usage.

The High-Capacity Water Filter You Need for Base Camp

Outside Online, Joe Jackson from

The world of backcountry water filters is a surprisingly scary one. As someone who’s had giardia and norovirus and picked something up in Peru 15 years ago that may still be hanging out in my intestines, I can tell you that the stakes are high. There is no governing body regulating the efficacy of physical filters. (The FDA approves only chemical water purification products, like Potable Aqua or iodine tablets.) Though there are testing standards for water filters used by the military—I highly suggest looking into NSF protocol P248, which some brands use—they are not mandated for civilian products.

Without a unified standard, it’s important to be careful and do your research when purchasing a filter. But if you want to skip those steps, I suggest the Platypus GravityWorks 4.0-Liter System. I’ve used it to purify hundreds of gallons of water, and it’s ideal for group pursuits in the backcountry or in emergency scenarios.

Best Winter Running Jackets

Podium Runner, Adam Chase from

Keeping the “just right” running temperature when running in frigid weather is a fine balance of protection, insulation, breathability, moisture management, mobility and adjusting on the fly. If you’re shivering through the snowy miles this winter, zip up a quality jacket as your top layer to stay warm. These eight high-tech options should help runners easily ward off winter chills.


Improving sleep for recovery

Asker Jeukendrup, My Sports Science blog from

Sleep is essential for recovery of the brain and body, yet many athletes have problems falling asleep or may wake up during the night, then wake up in the morning not well rested.

A new critical review was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this week, in which a number of experts evaluate the evidence on sleep for athletes. Here is an interview with 2 of those authors: Dr Shona Halson and Prof Neil Walsh.

How the Pandemic Has Changed Backcountry Safety

Outside Online, Christopher Solomon from

Over the summer, COVID-19 sent a flood of new people to the mountains to get away from it all. As the snow flies, many worry that a similar flood of newcomers will cause a deluge of accidents, including avalanches.

But a new study suggests that when it comes to slides, the newbies won’t be the only problem in this unprecedented year. It’s experienced backcountry users who are waking the big man in the white suit more often. And COVID-19 might be one reason why.

What to Know Before Taking a Ski Trip During COVID-19

Travel + Leisure magazine, Amy Thomas from

Even though it’s outdoor recreation, skiing during a pandemic requires physical and mental modifications.


You get what you measure

Jono Hey, Sketchplanations from

Sir Arthur Eddington, an English astrophysicist, told a short story involving a scientist studying fish by pulling them up with nets. After checking all the fish hauled up, the scientist concludes that there is a minimum size of fish in the sea. But the fish seen were determined by the size of the holes in the net, the smaller ones having slipped through, unmeasurable. The instrument you use affects what you see. Or as Richard Hamming puts it: “You get what you measure.”

This analogy provides a nice concrete example of a phenomena that affects us routinely in more subtle ways. What and how we choose to measure affects the conclusions we draw.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV): Everything You Need to Know

Polar Blog, Marc Lindsay from

… While heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute, heart rate variability (HRV) measures the time between each heartbeat. Also known as an R-R interval, this beat-to-beat interval variation is measured in milliseconds and can vary depending on a number of factors.

For instance, the interval between heartbeats is generally longer on your exhales and shorter when you inhale. So even if your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, the time between these beats is rarely one exact second. Within the same minute, you could have a 0.8-second interval between one set of heartbeats and then a 1.13-second interval between another set.

This probably seems overly scientific and perhaps not that useful for the everyday amateur athlete. However, being able to answer the question ‘what is HRV?’ can in fact provide you with important information about your overall health and the progression of your current training plan.

Why Getting Paid for Your Data Is a Bad Deal

Electronic Frontier Foundation, Hayley Tsukayama from

One bad privacy idea that won’t die is the so-called “data dividend,” which imagines a world where companies have to pay you in order to use your data.

Sound too good to be true? It is.

Let’s be clear: getting paid for your data—probably no more than a handful of dollars at most—isn’t going to fix what’s wrong with privacy today. Yes, a data dividend may sound at first blush like a way to get some extra money and stick it to tech companies. But that line of thinking is misguided, and falls apart quickly when applied to the reality of privacy today. In truth, the data dividend scheme hurts consumers, benefits companies, and frames privacy as a commodity rather than a right.

public lands

New Access Could Be Coming To Graveyard Fields Trail System On Blue Ridge Parkway

National Parks Traveler from

Collaboration between the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service could lead to new access to the Graveyard Fields trail system on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

The partnership involves a proposal for additional access to the Graveyard Fields trail system from John Rock Overlook at Milepost 419.4 on the parkway. Currently, access to Graveyard Fields is from a single parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway that often sees overflow parking stretching along the motor road.

New Maps Detail Migration Corridors Across The West

Twitter, Wyoming Public Radio from

Why we need access to nature

Vet Candy from

While access to nature is an established social determinant of health with clear benefits to physical, mental, and social health, it does not receive as must attention by health care providers or health systems as other social concerns, according to a new piece by a Penn Medicine physician published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“I think changing how people interact with their neighborhood environment, and changing the environment directly, is perceived as being hard and, perhaps, out of bounds of what is possible from health care,” said Eugenia South, MD, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine “We don’t learn about environmental contributors to health in medical school, and it is not part of traditional biomedical care,” South said. “And yet, changing the neighborhood, including increasing nature access, has the potential to have a huge health impact on a lot of people. It is worth pursuing.”

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