Outdoors + Tech newsletter – December 14, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for December 14, 2020



Wahoo Elemnt Rival review

TechRadar, Sarah Finley from

The Wahoo Elemnt Rival offers triathletes and runners functionality for which Wahoo products have always been known. Powered by Wahoo’s Elemnt technology and incorporating multisport features the watch simplifies your fitness results, allowing you to focus on your performance.

Its built-in GPS will record your progress through different stages of a multi-sport event. We love its unique transition technology, which means you don’t even have to inform, or touch the watch, when you swap from swim to ride to run.

Amazon’s Halo Band wearable tracks your voice and body fat, but isn’t helpful

The Washington Post, Geoffrey A. Fowler and Heather Kelly from

The Halo Band asks you to strip down and strap on a microphone so that it can make 3-D scans of your body fat and monitor your tone of voice. After all that, it still isn’t very helpful.

Stanford Study: Wearable devices for early COVID-19 detection

KRON4, Ella Sogomonian from

… Smartwatches and other wearable devices are traditionally used to track fitness but scientists at Stanford University found they may have a higher purpose in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Years ago, Dr. Michael P. Snyder detected he had Lyme disease because his smartwatch alerted him to an unusual resting heart rate.

Now, he along with his team are using that same model for early coronavirus detection, even as far in advance as four days before any symptoms may appear.

“What’s powerful about them is they’re measuring you all the time, so when you get ill it turns out your heart rate jumps up usually for regular illness about a day and a half before symptoms appear but for COVID-19 it turns out the median time is four days before symptoms appear,” Dr. Michael P. Snyder said.

Apple’s Tim Cook on the Future of Fitness

Outside Online from

CEO Tim Cook says that Apple has “things going on in our labs that are mind-blowing” when it comes to fitness. The comment was part of an extended in-person interview at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, that’s featured in the latest episode of the Outside Podcast. Cook and podcast host Michael Roberts spent more than an hour walking the grounds of the company’s headquarters, discussing everything from Cook’s need for daily exercise, to the new breed of health studies enabled by Apple Watch users, to the challenges of escaping screens in today’s hyper-connected world.

In September, Apple introduced the Watch Series 6, with the slogan “The future of health is on your wrist.” Cook told Roberts that the device, which now has a blood-oxygen sensor as well as an electrocardiogram app, is allowing people to “own their health in a way that they were not able to do before.” Later this month, Apple will launch Fitness+, inserting itself into the rapidly expanding online training space in a major way. Fitness+ will integrate your Watch data into guided workouts streamed to an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV screen. Cook believes that the simple interface will encourage people to explore new kinds of exercise routines and “maybe expand their universe a bit.” This kind of coaching isn’t new for Apple, he argued, but a “broadening” of the relationship the company already has with customers through its retail stores. [audio, 1:10:05]

non-wrist wearable

New Prototype Wearable – Transactions With a Fingertip?

Interesting Engineering, Chris Young from

Engineers at Purdue University developed a new prototype device enabling the human body to act as the link between smartphone-assisted payments and a card reader, allowing consumers to pay their due with a human touch, according to a recent study published in the journal Association for Computing Machinery.

Inventor’s Corner: BioSensics’ Wearable Technology Supports Aging in Place

Lower Extremity Review Magazine, Ashkan Vaziri from

In 2007, wearable sensor technology was just gaining traction. Applications (known as apps) largely focused on fitness and wellness, measuring things like numbers of steps and hours of sleep. However, Ashkan Vaziri, Ph.D., and a few friends had an idea for a different approach: They believed that wearable sensors with medical applications could help older adults remain independent as they age.

“The need was very clear,” said Vaziri, “because society is aging, and a lot of people are living longer.” The friends, then all scientists at Harvard University, started a company called BioSensics to execute their vision for technology to help older adults maintain their independence.

More than a decade later, the company’s success — spurred by National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding — has led electronics retailer Best Buy to acquire a portion of BioSensics’ assets. But BioSensics isn’t about to slow down now.

What’s in Your Shoe? A Look at Plantiga’s AI-Powered Insole

Simplifaster blog, Dr. Matt Jordan from

I wrote this blog post for SimpliFaster to provide an assessment of the various wearable technologies on the market focused on the smart shoe and smart insole. I provide a review of Plantiga below, present unpublished results of initial validation studies, and discuss the direction the company is taking.

It seems like the smart insole and smart shoe space is beginning to take off. The technology, including pressure mapping, has advanced rapidly. As you will see below, Plantiga places an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in an insole, but in addition to reporting what an IMU actually measures (acceleration, position, orientation), they use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide performance and health insights based on how we move.


What are the roles of artificial intelligence and machine learning in GNSS positioning?

Inside GNSS from


Q: Can machine learning replace conventional GNSS positioning techniques?

Actually, it makes no sense to use ML when the exact physics/mathematical models of GNSS positioning are known, and when using machine learning (ML) techniques over any appreciable area to collect extensive data and train the network to estimate receiver locations would be an impractically large undertaking. We, human beings, designed the satellite navigation systems based on the laws of physics discovered. For example, we use Kepler’s laws to model the position of satellites in an orbit. We use the spread-spectrum technique to model the satellite signal allowing us to acquire very weak signals transmitted from the medium-Earth orbits. We understand the Doppler effect and design tracking loops to track the signal and decode the navigation message. We finally make use of trilateration to model the positioning and use the least square to estimate the location of the receiver. By the efforts of GNSS scientists and engineers for the past several decades, GNSS can now achieve centimeter-level positioning. The problem is; if everything is so perfect, why don’t we have a perfect GNSS positioning?

The paradox of choice

Jono Hey, Sketchplanations from

FitRankings Pushes Connected Fitness Innovation with Enhanced Capabilities

SNEWS, Cory Van Auken from

FitRankings, the fitness industry’s first to market universal health platform, is expanding its capabilities with new features, including milestone triggered messaging and interactive mapping. With these advancements, FitRankings partners can better leverage the world of connected health devices and wearables to build the most meaningful digital fitness experiences ever hosted on the internet.

Developing a successful virtual event takes two things: creativity and technology. FitRankings provides technology for partners to do more, engaging their communities in new, authentic ways. At the core of the FitRankings platform is the universal connection to wearables and apps, allowing participants to seamlessly connect any device.


Self-repairing gelatin-based film could be a smart move for electronics

American Chemical Society, Press Pacs from

Dropping a cell phone can sometimes cause superficial cracks to appear. But other times, the device can stop working altogether because fractures develop in the material that stores data. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Polymer Materials have made an environmentally friendly, gelatin-based film that can repair itself multiple times and still maintain the electronic signals needed to access a device’s data. The material could be used someday in smart electronics and health-monitoring devices.

Flexible color ePaper displays could soon adorn your clothes

Engadget, Kris Holt from

Whenever the runways of Paris, London, Milan and New York open back up, designers might be showing off looks adorned with flexible color ePaper displays. E Ink has teamed up with Plastic Logic to make the first such panels based on its Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP) tech.

The glass-free organic Thin Film Transistor (oTFT) displays are lightweight and ultra low-power. E Ink claims they’re more durable, thinner and lighter than glass-based TFTs. That, according to the company, makes oTFT displays “ideal” for wearables. For instance, designers could build the Legio-branded displays into smart clothing and jewelry. Until now, ACeP displays have mainly been used for signage, which of course doesn’t require panels to be flexible.

SuperCell: Reaching new heights for wider connectivity

Facebook Engineering, Abhishek Tiwari from

SuperCell is a large-area coverage solution that leverages towers up to 250 meters high and high-gain, narrow-sectored antennas to increase mobile data coverage range and capacity.

Our field measurements found that a 36-sector SuperCell base station mounted on a 250-meter tower can serve a geographical coverage area up to 65 times larger than a standard three-sector rural macro base station on a 30-meter tower in the same topography. In an analysis of uncovered regions in Nigeria, using publicly available population density data coupled with insight from Facebook Connectivity’s Advanced Network Planning tools, we determined that a single SuperCell could replace 15 to 25 traditional macrocells, or hundreds of small cells, to provide coverage to the same number of people; and that a network of SuperCells could be deployed at more than 33 percent lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to a network of macrocells.


A Brooks biomechanist predicts the scientific future of running shoes

Inverse, Stephen J. Bronner from

… [Matt] Trudeau, 40, is the senior manager of the Future Concepts Team at Brooks Running, which focuses on helping runners be more efficient. He’s the co-author of 25 published papers, mostly on the way physical activity affects the body. In one study published in the journal Nature, his team learned how running shoes affect the knees differently.

In the experiment, study participants ran on a treadmill for 75 minutes, then were immediately scanned with an MRI machine. They repeated this process three times over the course of three weeks in different running shoes.

“We were able to measure cartilage volume loss in their knees, and we saw that it was different from one person to the next, and from one shoe to another,” Trudeau tells Inverse. “We found that we could tell which person could benefit from a given shoe because their loading would be reduced in their knees.”

Best Winter Traction for Trail Runners

Podium Runner, Lisa Jhung from

For trail runners equipped with the right gear, ice and snow creates a winter wonderland. Taking a pair of traction devices with you on your favorite trails gives you the surefootedness needed to continue exploring and adventuring all winter long. We tested the latest options on snow, ice and slop.

Buying advice: Make sure you purchase the right size. Too small, and the rubber webbing that secures the device to your shoe either becomes impossible to pull on, or uncomfortably pinches your foot. Too large, and you risk the device flopping around annoyingly, or worse, slipping off mid-run.

These Are the 9 Best Snowshoes, According to Outdoor Enthusiasts

Travel + Leisure magazine, Rebecca Carhart from

… To help you find the best pair for your needs, we turned to real reviews from outdoor enthusiasts to see which snowshoes they love the most. From a durable option that’s great for backcountry trails to a cute pair of snowshoes for kids, keep reading to shop the snowshoes that shoppers say are the best of the best.

Winter Workout Clothes and Tips: Athletes Advise on Cold-Weather Training

Vogue, Kari Molvar from

On a recent Saturday, I grabbed my towel and headed to the beach for a brisk November swim. I had a full wetsuit on, borrowed from a friend, and only stayed in for a few strokes, but the experience took my breath away—in a good way. My body had never felt so invigorated and energized, the effects of which lingered for hours and contributed to a euphoric glow well-known to open-water enthusiasts. My next thought: Where can I buy a wetsuit? Because I want to do this again.

As winter descends and access to gyms and fitness studios remains limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of us are shifting our workouts outside and into the fresh, bone-chilling air. It can admittedly feel punishing, but training in winter can be extremely beneficial, physically and mentally. Studies show that exercising in cold weather can increase the body’s metabolism and fat-burning ability, and getting into nature at any point in the year lowers risk for depression and ups your intake of immune-boosting vitamin D. Meanwhile, pro athletes who train outside year-round (eagerly!) anticipate the first frost as a chance to mix up their routines, work different muscle groups, and develop mental stamina. (An icy morning run is, as Bend, Oregon–based triathlete Linsey Corbin puts it, “character building.”) Personally, I find that pushing myself in gritty, even nasty, conditions makes me feel alive—it’s a much-needed jolt after so many months of being cooped up inside, when the days blur and mental numbness starts to seem normal.


Strength and Endurance – Strange Bedfellows?

ALTIS from

… Even in the longest endurance events, speed and strength are key factors in successful competitive results. Billat (2001), for example, demonstrated that marathon results in elite athletes are more related to 1000m personal best than VO2 max! The same author is also collecting evidence that the so-called 30km ‘wall’ has more to do with muscular strength endurance, rather than limits in metabolism.

Interestingly, Ivan (2012) also showed that strength tests (such the absolute static force of the thigh flexors, or distance covered for 10 bounding strides after a 300m run at high intensity) were better predictors of female elite middle distance competition performance than traditional aerobic markers – such as maximal oxygen consumption.

The New Rules of Protein

Podium Runner, Matthew Kadey from

… Sure, it won’t provide much fuel for your runs, but protein is of particular importance to runners, who need it to optimize performance and recovery. Consider protein vital for pretty much every cellular function including moving oxygen throughout your body, bolstering immunity and forming new muscle, which is literally made from the stuff.

If you’re wondering how much is enough and what the best sources are, start with these protein eating rules to make it work better for you.

Rule 1: Aim High

Need Motivation to Exercise? Olfaction Is a Primal Motivator

Psychology Today, Christopher Bergland from

Olfaction may play an important role in the motivation to seek voluntary exercise, according to a new study. The University of California, Riverside (UCR) researchers speculate that “individual differences of exercise habit may be accounted for by a differentiated perception of specific smells.”


Coalition Urges Senate Not To Open Wilderness Areas To Mountain Bikes

National Parks Traveler, Kurt Repanshek from

A coalition of groups is pushing to stop legislation in the U.S. Senate that would open wilderness areas to mountain bike use.

The coalition, which includes the American Hiking Society, Appalachian Trails Conservancy, National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, and Pacific Crest Trail Association, maintains that there are enough trails open to mountain bikers without the need to allow them access to official wilderness.

Mountain Biking has Outgrown Colorado’s Most Popular Trails

Singletracks Mountain Bike News, Matt Miller from

The pandemic made one thing clear on Colorado’s Front Range trails: the already over-populated singletracks that wrap around the Rockies’ most eastern hills now needed to be shut down when they reached “capacity.” That wasn’t only to enforce and encourage social distancing. There simply weren’t enough parking spaces to accommodate everyone who wanted to visit an open space, and the land manager used that as the metric to define capacity.

Riding or walking into Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) parks didn’t make a difference either. Rangers were turning visitors away and recommending that they didn’t try any other entrances. So on any given day under the assumption that a visitor can ride a park he or she normally does, that changed drastically in the Spring months of 2020 when coronavirus started spreading in the US and Colorado experienced its stay-at-home orders.

public lands

Winter hiking in the Adirondacks: What you need to know for a safe and comfortable outing

New York Upstate, David Figura from

… We interviewed Ben Brosseau, a spokesman from the Adirondack Mountain Club, about what winter hikers need to know and how to prepare for their treks.

Among the points Brosseau noted was that proper preparation and having the right equipment are absolutely necessary for a safe and comfortable hike — particularly in challenging, wintry conditions,.

“Expect the unexpected. You need to know the Adirondacks is a place of weather extremes,” he said noting that that wind chill factors on some Adirondack peaks can approach minus-80 to -90 degrees.”

7 Interesting Things To Know About Devils Tower

Travel Awaits, Tim Trudell from

Long before Hollywood aliens visited, Devils Tower stood as both a beautiful and cultural icon in eastern Wyoming. Named the nation’s first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, Devils Tower National Monument has been around for thousands of years. Native Americans such as the Lakota (Sioux) once regarded it as a religious and cultural symbol. As Americans made their way westward in 1875, an interpreter for a military expedition misunderstood the Native American name and referred to the landmark as “Devils Tower.”

Standing nearly 900 feet tall from base to summit, Devils Tower — called Mato Tipila (“Bear Lodge”) by the Lakota — is a popular tourist destination as well as a major climbing attraction.


Perovskite nanocrystals now available with 12 and 26 facets

Chemical & Engineering News, Mitch Jacoby from

A novel synthesis procedure can produce highly uniform luminescent perovskite nanocrystals with uncommon shapes and surface morphologies. The finding broadens the range of strategies that can be used for tuning the optical and photonic properties of these materials, which are widely studied for use in solar cells, light-emitting diodes, and electronic displays. In the past few years, many research groups have devised methods for improving the chemical stability and boosting the luminescence of lead halide nanocrystals that have the perovskite structure and stoichiometry. Invariably, these materials are six-sided crystals (cubes or platelets) in which the atoms in the faces, or facets, line up in one or two standard geometries.

High-performance compliant thermoelectric generators with magnetically self-assembled soft heat conductors for self-powered wearable electronics

Nature Communications journal from

Softening of thermoelectric generators facilitates conformal contact with arbitrary-shaped heat sources, which offers an opportunity to realize self-powered wearable applications. However, existing wearable thermoelectric devices inevitably exhibit reduced thermoelectric conversion efficiency due to the parasitic heat loss in high-thermal-impedance polymer substrates and poor thermal contact arising from rigid interconnects. Here, we propose compliant thermoelectric generators with intrinsically stretchable interconnects and soft heat conductors that achieve high thermoelectric performance and unprecedented conformability simultaneously. The silver-nanowire-based soft electrodes interconnect bismuth-telluride-based thermoelectric legs, effectively absorbing strain energy, which allows our thermoelectric generators to conform perfectly to curved surfaces. Metal particles magnetically self-assembled in elastomeric substrates form soft heat conductors that significantly enhance the heat transfer to the thermoelectric legs, thereby maximizing energy conversion efficiency on three-dimensional heat sources. Moreover, automated additive manufacturing paves the way for realizing self-powered wearable applications comprising hundreds of thermoelectric legs with high customizability under ambient conditions. [full text]

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