Outdoors + Tech newsletter – January 2, 2021

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for January 2, 2021



‘OnePlus Band’ fitness tracker reportedly coming in 2021

9to5Google, Ben Schoon from

OnePlus fans have been demanding a smartwatch from the company for years now, and 2021 will be the year that finally delivers it. Before that happens, though, the “OnePlus Band” fitness tracker is reportedly set to debut.

The folks over at Android Central report that sometime in Q1 2021, OnePlus will release a fitness tracker that will be called the “OnePlus Band.” This is apparently a separate device from the company’s upcoming smartwatch offering a fitness-focused, barebones experience.

non-wrist wearable

RunEASI wearable enables runners to train and rehabilitate more efficiently

KU Leuven (Belgium), News from

Being able to exercise without pain or injury: it’s every athlete’s dream as well as the goal of RunEASI, a new spin-off of KU Leuven. RunEASI’s wearable measures the impact experienced by runners and provides scientific feedback that can help them avoid and recover from injuries. The spin-off is supported by the Gemma Frisius Fund and the Freshmen investment fund.

Researchers Develop Smart Suit to Monitor Physiological Data

Lower Extremity Review Magazine from

The current technology used to monitor an athlete’s performance ranges from small wearable fitness trackers to elaborate clinical monitoring equipment. Fitness trackers are compact and lightweight but can only collect data from a single point, which is insufficient to generate meaningful insights. Clinical monitoring equipment uses multiple sensors to capture data from various points on the athlete’s body but is mired in tangles of wires and is too bulky to be used outdoors. Now, a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Institute for Health Innovation and Technology has developed a smartphone-powered suit capable of providing athletes with physiological data such as their posture, running gait, and body temperature while they are out on the field. Assistant Professor John Ho, PhD, led the team.

The smart suit is made up of web-like circuitry, the pattern of which was designed to relay electromagnetic signals from a nearby smartphone to sensors on the body as far as a meter away; the inductive patterns act as hubs at strategic locations. Custom-made sensors placed at those hubs can transmit data back to the smartphone and are powered by the smartphone’s NFC chip, removing the need for batteries. This reduces a significant amount of weight while enabling the collection of data from multiple areas on the body with minimal impact on the athlete’s performance.

High-five or thumbs-up? New device detects which hand gesture you want to make

University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley News from

UC Berkeley researchers have created a new device that combines wearable biosensors with artificial intelligence software to help recognize what hand gesture a person intends to make based on electrical signal patterns in the forearm. The device paves the way for better prosthetic control and seamless interaction with electronic devices.


Challenges of Human Pose Estimation in AI-Powered Fitness Apps

InfoQ, Maksym Tatariants from

Human pose estimation is a popular solution that AI has to offer; it is used to determine the position and orientation of the human body given an image containing a person.

Some examples of applying pose estimation in fitness are Kaia, VAI Fitness Coach, Ally apps, or the Millie Fit device.

Powered by computer vision and natural language processing algorithms, the technologies lead end-users through a number of workouts and give real-time feedback.

Garmin Connect guide: Unleash the full power of this incredible app

Wareable (UK), Michael Sawh from

Garmin Connect is the powerhouse behind your sports watch or smartwatch – and is where the magic happens in terms of tracking and analysing your workouts, or keeping tabs on your heart and activity.

Garmin Connect comes in two forms: a web service and a smartphone app, and each enables you to unlock a whole range of extra tools that can hone your training and help you become a better runner, cyclist, or just more healthy in general.

Garmin CIQ Apps- Payment Required – New Notification

the 5k runner blog from

In early 2021 we will start to see changes to how some Garmin CIQ apps are listed in the Garmin Connect IQ Store. Those apps that require a payment, or that repeatedly ask for donations, will have a message to that effect appear in their listing on the app store.


Satellite-Based Sensor for Environmental Heat-Stress Sweat Creatinine Monitoring: The Remote Artificial Intelligence-Assisted Epidermal Wearable Sensing for Health Evaluation

ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering journal from

Wearable human sweat sensors have offered a great prospect in epidermal detection for self-monitoring and health evaluation. These on-body epidermal sensors can be integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT) as augmented diagnostics tools for telehealth applications, especially for noninvasive health monitoring without using blood contents. One of many great benefits in utilizing sweat as biofluid is the capability of instantaneously continuous diagnosis during normal day-to-day activities. Here, we revealed a textile-based sweat sensor selective for perspired creatinine that is prepared by coating poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA)-Cu2+-poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrenesulfonate (PEDOT:PSS) and cuprous oxide nanoparticles on stretchable nylon, is equipped with heart rate monitoring and a satellite-communication device to locate wearers, and incorporates machine learning to predict the levels of environmental heat stress. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) was used to investigate different charge-transfer resistances of PVA and PEDOT:PSS with cuprous and cuprite ions induced by single-chain and ionic cross-linking. Furthermore, density function theory (DFT) studies predicted the catalytic binding of sweat creatinine with the sensing materials that occurred at thiophene rings. The hybrid sensor successfully achieved 96.3% selectivity efficacy toward the determination of creatinine contents from 0.4 to 960 uM in the presence of interfering species of glucose, urea, uric acid, and NaCl as well as retained 92.1% selectivity efficacy in the existence of unspecified human sweat interference. Ultimately, the hand-grip portable device can offer the great benefit of continuous health monitoring and provide the location of any wearer. This augmented telemedicine sensor may represent the first remote low-cost and artificial-intelligence-based sensing device selective for heat-stress sweat creatinine.

Bosch’s New Fitness Tracker Sensor Can Learn and Recognize Almost Any Activity

Gizmodo, Andrew Liszewski from

… If you’ve got a couch on the sidelines it’s not a problem, but most swimmers don’t, which has led Bosch Sensortec to develop a new motion sensor for fitness trackers that uses artificial intelligence to learn very specific motions and automatically recognize them later.

The BHI260AP self-learning AI sensor might not sound very motivational (remember the cooler sounding Nike Fuelband?) but it promises to make fitness trackers an even more useful tool during training. It’s small enough to incorporate into wearables and even wireless headphones, and out of the box Bosch includes a set of more than 15 different pre-learned fitness activities. That’s a good start, meaning many athletes can just jump right into a workout, but adding to that database of recognizable activities is as easy as putting a device into a learning routine and going through the repetitive motions a handful of times. Those pre-learned activities can also be tweaked for a user’s given technique or style, which ensures that the data collected, and other metrics calculated, like calories burned, are more accurate.

This artificially intelligent drone wants to be your personal fitness trainer

Yanko Design, Sarang Sheth from

Designed by the students of the Hongik University, the Traverse is a conceptual drone powered by AI that’s designed to be a personal trainer for recreational runners. The autonomous drone comes with the quad-propeller layout, and also features multiple fish-eye cameras that help it navigate through spaces without requiring any external controls. A main gimbal-mounted camera focuses on you, the runner, and the camera focuses on you as you run, monitoring your speed, performance, technique, laps, and charts your overall progress. While running, Traverse takes photos and videos of runners to give them Form correction & visual running feedback by tracking their posture with deep learning.

The Traverse drone is accompanied by the Pod, a wearable that sits around your neck. The drone uses the wearable as a tracking tag, while the Pod itself works as your personal coach, giving you audio feedback to improve your form and performance. A simple button-based interface on the Pod lets you toggle between various functions without having to look at your smartphone screen. After your workout’s done, detailed stats are sent to the Traverse’s companion app on the smartphone, allowing you to view every aspect of your run, from your route to your biostats and even your posture.


Why Trail Shoes Will Make You a Better Runner

PodiumRunner, Jonathan Beverly from

Some runners think trail shoes are only for those hearty adventurers who spend their days above the tree line, deep in national parks. I’d like to argue that every runner should have a pair and use them regularly — regardless of whether you’ll ever race on trails or take them on epic adventures. Here are 5 reasons why having a pair of trail shoes handy will make you a better runner:

1) Trail shoes make getting off the road easier.

Even if “off-road” only means running on the foot-worn track beside the paved road or concrete multi-use path, stepping off the smooth, firm surface lets you encounter varied underfoot angles and densities, making you land differently with each stride. This not only varies the forces your body encounters, reducing repetitive stress and corresponding injury risk, it also works different muscles with each stride, thus helping you to gain new strengths and further reduce your chances of injury.

Vendor Focus: Darn Tough Vermont

Running Insight from

New product for the category and its Lifetime Guarantee position Darn Tough Vermont as a key player in run specialty in 2021.

Crescent Moon Eva Snowshoes Review: A Unique Experience

Snowshoe magazine, Paul Wowk from

We recently had the opportunity to test and review the Crescent Moon Eva Foam snowshoes. These snowshoes are a foam top bonded to a plastic bottom with velcro-like straps for bindings. The crampons are integrated with the plastic bottom as snow spikes. If you compare these to typical aluminum frame snowshoes with steel bindings, these are definitely a little out of the box.

Nordic Skis Are the New Toilet Paper

Treehugger, Katherine Martinko from

When I decided to give my oldest son a pair of cross-country skis (also known as Nordic skis) for Christmas this year, I thought the process would be straightforward. I called the local outfitter and requested his size, only to be told they were sold out, and had been since October.

“Where do you recommend I go?” I asked the salesperson, who hesitated and told me that all the outfitters and sporting gear retailers in the region were in the same situation. I tried anyway, and she was right. Not a single Nordic ski or boot in a common size was left in southwestern Ontario.

One employee at Garb & Gear in Owen Sound, ON, told me that he’s even seeing people bring in decades-old skis with 3-pin bindings and asking him to convert them to new bindings. “I haven’t seen those in years!” he laughed over the phone. “People are desperate.”


Liquid bandage detects tissue oxygenation without the drawbacks of wired oximeters

Massachusetts General Hospital, News from

Researchers have validated the practicality and accuracy of an oxygen-sensing liquid bandage that measures the concentration of oxygen in transplanted tissue

Researchers evaluated a paint-on bandage made with phosphorescent materials to a wired tissue oximeter in women undergoing breast reconstruction surgery after cancer

Upcycling: Turning plastic bags into adhesives

University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley News from

One major problem with recycling polyethylene, which makes up one-third of all plastic production worldwide, is economic: Recycled bags end up in low-value products, such as decks and construction material, providing little incentive to reuse the waste.

A new chemical process developed at the University of California, Berkeley, converts polyethylene plastic into a strong and more valuable adhesive and could change that calculus.


Thru-Hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis Joins President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

Backpacker, Adam Roy from

Jennifer Pharr Davis’s adventures as a long-distance hiker have carried her thousands of miles across the US and six continents. Her latest achievement is taking her into government.

Pharr Davis, a former fastest known time holder for the Appalachian Trail, is the newest member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, an advisory committee aimed at promoting active lifestyles in the United States. If you’re in your twenties or older, you may remember it as the group behind the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, a standardized competition that had grade school kids compete to earn awards in challenges like pull-ups, the shuttle run, and the 50-yard dash.

Billions of dollars spent on fighting California wildfires, but little on prevention

Los Angeles Times, Betty Boxall from

When COVID-19 blew a hole in California’s spending plans last spring, one of the things state budget-cutters took an axe to was wildfire prevention.

A $100-million pilot project to outfit older homes with fire-resistant materials was dropped. Another $165 million earmarked for community protection and wildland fuel-reduction fell to less than $10 million.

A few months later, the August siege of dry lightning turned 2020 into a record-shattering wildfire year. The state’s emergency firefighting costs are expected to hit $1.3 billion, pushing the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s total spending this fiscal year to more than $3 billion.

The numbers highlight the enormous chasm between what state and federal agencies spend on firefighting and what they spend on reducing California’s wildfire hazard — a persistent gap that critics say ensures a self-perpetuating cycle of destruction.

In Pandemic, People Are Turning to Nature – Especially Women

University of Vermont, Gund Institute for Environment from

Spotting horned owls in neighborhood trees? Raising a bumper crop of winter squash? You may have much in common with individuals in a new study.

People in the study—who ranged from stuck at home to stressed in essential worker jobs—reported significant increases in outdoor activity during COVID-19, especially among women.

Outdoor activities seeing the largest increases were: watching wildlife (up 64%), gardening (57%), taking photos or doing other art in nature (54%), relaxing alone outside (58%), and, yes, making their masked and distanced way on walks (70%).

People also experienced a shift in why they value nature. During the pandemic, respondents said in nature they cherished a greater sense of mental health and wellbeing (59%), exercise (29%), appreciating nature’s beauty (29%), sense of identity (23%) and spirituality (22%), along with other less common values.


How Tech Trends Among Runners Help Us Envision the Future of Athletics and Society

Built In, Frank Diana from

The rapid progression of science and technology is converging with societal, economic, environmental and geopolitical shifts in ways that alter our future. As a result, people everywhere are focused on the “future of X”, where “X” increasingly represents every domain.

It is not surprising, then, to see the future of sports impacted by this convergence. There is no doubt that the future of sports — and running in particular — is changing. Tata Consultancy Services launched #ThisRun, a new worldwide community for runners, reinforcing its long-standing commitment to global marathon and running partnership platforms. In support of this initiative, TCS conducted This Run Tech Survey, which captured runners’ views of technology and its role in the sport now and in the future. It provides a glimpse into the minds of a broad spectrum of runners, giving us foresight to see across horizons. With it, we can envision the future of running and explore how it may affect societal wellness.

What Should I Eat before Exercise? Pre-Exercise Nutrition and the Response to Endurance Exercise: Current Prospective and Future Directions

Nutrients journal from

The primary variables influencing the adaptive response to a bout of endurance training are exercise duration and exercise intensity. However, altering the availability of nutrients before and during exercise can also impact the training response by modulating the exercise stimulus and/or the physiological and molecular responses to the exercise-induced perturbations. The purpose of this review is to highlight the current knowledge of the influence of pre-exercise nutrition ingestion on the metabolic, physiological, and performance responses to endurance training and suggest directions for future research. Acutely, carbohydrate ingestion reduces fat oxidation, but there is little evidence showing enhanced fat burning capacity following long-term fasted-state training. Performance is improved following pre-exercise carbohydrate ingestion for longer but not shorter duration exercise, while training-induced performance improvements following nutrition strategies that modulate carbohydrate availability vary based on the type of nutrition protocol used. Contrasting findings related to the influence of acute carbohydrate ingestion on mitochondrial signaling may be related to the amount of carbohydrate consumed and the intensity of exercise. This review can help to guide athletes, coaches, and nutritionists in personalizing pre-exercise nutrition strategies, and for designing research studies to further elucidate the role of nutrition in endurance training adaptations. [full text]

Creating Habit Formation for Behaviors, Editorial

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal from

… Driven by a shared interest in better understanding the science of what helps people form healthy habits, The Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) and the Behavior Change for Good (BCFG) Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania collaborated with WW, the largest commercial weight loss program in the world, to organize a one-day conference. This conference focused on three themes: (1) the psychology of sustained behavior change; (2) changing environments to enduringly change behavior; and (3) behaviorally-informed policy to encourage healthy habits.

The papers in this special issue are largely derived from talks given at this one-day conference. They range from conceptual pieces to new experiments in a variety of areas, with topics ranging from a psychological model of what it takes to achieve sustained behavior change to a field experiment with a national gym chain testing the benefits of temptation bundling.

public lands

President-Elect Biden Expected To Act To Reverse President Trump’s Public Lands Impacts

National Parks Traveler, Lori Sonken from

With the departure of the Trump administration, many conservation organizations are asking President-elect Biden to reverse some of his predecessor’s actions affecting public lands and the environment. There are concerns over new Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act regulations and, of course, President Trump’s splintering of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in Utah.

The Biden administration will need the help of Congress to undo the full slate of Trump administration policies affecting public lands, including national parks. But there are straightforward and immediate actions the new team can take, such as reversing executive orders prioritizing extraction over conservation and reinstating lands removed from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, when it takes office on January 20.

Among the first steps will be to name an acting director to steer the National Park Service and rebuild trust with the career staff until the Senate confirms a permanent director, said John Leshy, emeritus professor at UC Hastings Law School, and solicitor at the Interior Department during the Clinton Administration.

After 51 years, you can finally hike this Bay Area park. I did, and it made me furious.

SFGATE, Grant Marek from

… In 1958, Russell V. Lee — who founded what’s now the Palo Alto Medical Foundation — offered most of the 1,400 acres of land that make up Foothills Park to the city of Palo Alto at a price tag of $1.3 million.

Before the park opened, Palo Alto turned down an offer from Santa Clara County in 1964 to contribute $500,000 toward the acquisition costs — because accepting the county’s offer came with a contingency that the park be open to all. Instead, the city limited access to the park to only Palo Alto residents and their guests, starting in 1969, and even made it a misdemeanor for a nonresident to enter the park.

Over the years, civil rights lawyers have argued restrictions on this public space reek of racism and segregation, and even internal efforts to overturn the policy have been fraught with controversy — a member of the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission resigned over the city’s refusal to change their policy, saying it “crudely discriminates by address and ZIP code, knowing that such discrimination disparately affects those whose racial and socioeconomic backgrounds do not match those of the typical Palo Altan.”

People Take Better Care Of Public Parks If They Feel A Greater Sense Of Ownership Over Them

The British Psychological Society, Research Digest, Emma Young from

The “tragedy of the commons” was popularised in the 1960s as a way of explaining how public or shared resources which we’re incentivised to use can become depleted or ruined by individual self-interest. And because we have shared ownership of public resources we feel we have less responsibility for them and therefore less of an impetus to contribute time, energy or money to keeping them going.

As we become more aware (and more concerned) about threats to the environment, the tragedy of the commons seems even more pertinent. How do we keep parks, rivers, lakes and other local resources well-maintained? According to a new study, published in the Journal of Marketing, it might come down to a sense of ownership — the more we feel a property or resource is ours, the better we’ll take care of it.

The focus of the first study was a lake, where 135 participants had rented kayaks. The rental service largely catered to those with no experience of the lake, meaning they were unlikely to have any sense of ownership of the area before their visit. Some of the kayak renters were asked to think of and write down a nickname for the lake, while others were not; all renters were then told that they should pick up objects or trash they found floating in the lake.


The lure of lithium gets serious

Cosmos Magazine, Richard A Lovett from

Scientists and engineers seeking to power the alternative-energy future are scrambling to find new sources of lithium for rechargeable batteries.

The overall demand, a panel of researchers said today at the virtual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, is expected to double in the next five years, and increase tenfold by 2030.

Much will be driven by the increasing use of electric vehicles, says Michael Whittaker, a director of the Lithium Resource Research and Innovation Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California. “To power our electric trucks, we’re going to need as much lithium as we can get,” he says.

But there will also be increasing demand for batteries in homes, predicts Peter Fiske, another LBNL researcher. “We all live in California,” he says of himself and his fellow panellists. “All of us had the power to our houses shut off at least once this summer [when windy conditions and dry weather raised fears of downed power lines setting wildfires].

Powering up stretchy technology – A Spartan-led research team has developed a new “4D printing” approach to help power stretchable devices

Michigan State University, MSU Today from

A team of researchers led by Michigan State University’s Changyong Cao has created stretchable energy-storage devices using a specialized printing technology, innovative materials and the centuries-old art of origami.

Developing such malleable energy devices will help existing wearable technologies, such as smart watches, become more flexible, comfortable and reliable. But Cao, director of the Soft Machines and Electronics Laboratory, also is envisioning new possibilities empowered by his research.

For example, he’s working toward smart textiles to monitor athletes’ vital signs during games, electronic skins to restore some sense of touch for people using prosthetics and smart implants that can track patients’ health while helping support it.

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