Outdoors + Tech newsletter – January 8, 2021

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for January 8, 2021



The Amazfit Bip U Pro smartwatch for $70 is pretty amazing

CNET, Rick Broida from

Alexa, GPS, heart rate, SpO2, nine-day battery, dozens of faces… and it’s only how much?! Plus: four months of Tidal music for $4.

WHOOP: The $1.2 Billion Fitness Company Changing The Way We Train, Sleep and Recover.

Joe Pompliano, Huddle Up newsletter from

… The difference between WHOOP and a traditional heart rate monitor?

The data.

With a screen-free interface and no additional gimmicks, the WHOOP band is only worried about one thing — collecting and analyzing health related metrics. In return, the WHOOP band is able to capture thousands of additional data points per minute compared to a traditional heart rate monitor.

These data points include both performance related metrics like average heart rate, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability, but also sleep & recovery related metrics like sleep stage recognition, latency, and efficiency.

non-wrist wearable

Study: Oura’s smart ring could help spot COVID infections

Axios, Ina Fried from

Oura’s smart ring could help detect COVID-19 infections before noticeable symptoms show up — and earlier than other methods — thanks to its ability to continuously monitor body temperature, according to a University of California, San Francisco study.

Why it matters: Earlier detection, especially of those without symptoms, could spur people who may be infected to get tested and self-isolate, crucial steps in slowing the coronavirus’ spread as the pandemic worsens in the U.S.

Between the lines: Because the smart ring continuously monitors vitals, researchers found, it can spot when someone’s temperature is running higher than the normal range of fluctuations around their personal baseline, even if they’re not running an objectively high fever.

Attis Fitness plans to run past the competition with accessible fitness tracker

The National (Scotland), Emer O'Toole from

Attis Fitness was set up in 2016 after avid runner Tim Elizondo wanted to make a fitness tracker with more features. Its first product Stridsense was launched at the end of last year and is the only wearable fitness tracker on the market which can analyse a runner’s whole stride without the need to visit a laboratory. The company is now set to take its tech worldwide after a six-figure cash boost from an investor group led by Gabriel Investment Syndicate

Wareable Hotlist: 21 wearable tech predictions for 2021

Wareable (UK), Michael Sawh from

… The madness of the pandemic has put more focus on wearables helping us monitor our health, fitness and keeping us better connected.

And companies like Apple, Samsung and Fitbit – as well as emerging players like Huami and Huawei – are pushing smartwatches further into their roles as health and fitness devices.

We’ve come up with 21 big predictions of what we think is going to go down in the wearable industry – and grab the headlines – over the next 12 months.


High-energy all-in-one stretchable micro-supercapacitor arrays based on 3D laser-induced graphene foams decorated with mesoporous ZnP nanosheets for self-powered stretchable systems

Nano Energy journal from

Micro-supercapacitors are promising energy storage devices that can complement or even replace lithium-ion batteries in wearable and stretchable microelectronics. However, they often possess a relatively low energy density and limited mechanical stretchability. Here, we report an all-in-one planar micro-supercapacitor arrays (MSCAs) based on hybrid electrodes with ultrathin ZnP nanosheets anchored on 3D laser-induced graphene foams (ZnP@LIG) arranged in island-bridge device architecture. The hybrid electrodes with a large specific surface area demonstrate excellent ionic and electrical conductivities, impressive gravimetric (areal) capacitance of 1425 F g−1 (7.125 F cm−2) at 1 A g−1, and long-term stability. In addition to high energy (245 m Wh cm−2) and power (12.50 mW kg−1 at 145 m Wh cm−2) densities, the MSCAs with excellent cycling stability also showcase adjustable voltage and current outputs through serial and parallel connections of MSC cells in the island-bridge design, which also allows the system to be reversibly stretched up to 100%. Meanwhile, theoretical calculations validated by UV–vis absorption spectra partially suggest that the enhanced capacitance and rate capability may result from the improved electrical conductivity and number of adsorbed charged ions (Na+ in Na2SO4 aqueous electrolyte and K+ in PVA/KCl gel electrolyte) on the pseudocapacitive non-layered ultrathin ZnP nanosheets. The integration of the all-in-one stretchable MSCAs with a crumpled Au-based triboelectric nanogenerator and stretchable crumpled graphene-based strain sensor demonstrates a self-powered stretchable system. The coupled design principle of electronic materials and device architecture provides a promising method to develop high-performance wearable/stretchable energy storage devices and self-powered stretchable systems for future bio-integrated electronics.

A robotic revolution for urban nature

University of Leeds (UK), Technology News from

Drones, robots and autonomous systems can transform the natural world in and around cities for people and wildlife.

International research, involving over 170 experts and led by the University of Leeds, assessed the opportunities and challenges that this cutting-edge technology could have for urban nature and green spaces.

The researchers highlighted opportunities to improve how we monitor nature, such as identifying emerging pests and ensuring plants are cared for, and helping people engage with and appreciate the natural world around them.


Patagonia’s New CEO Plots a Post-Trump Future for the Activist Brand

Bloomberg Green, Kim Bhasin from

The leader of the retailer that did more than any other to #ResistTrump wasn’t watching the around-the-clock coverage of the election results on cable news. That’s because Ryan Gellert, the new chief executive officer of Patagonia, doesn’t own a television.

When he took over the company this year, it was already at war with Trump. To try to unseat Republicans, Patagonia had bought political ads and employees had pumped cash into congressional races. That weekend in November, his phone blew up with texts from friends and colleagues across North America and Europe as he watched President-elect Joe Biden’s victory speech from his home in the Netherlands. Gellert felt a wave of relief, then sat down to compose a message to his employees. He told them to celebrate. “It was like taking a lot of big bricks out of your backpack as you’re trudging uphill,” he recalls in an interview with Bloomberg Green.

Bose’s new ‘open’ sport buds set to ship Jan. 20

CNET, David Carnoy from

The Sport Open Earbuds use the same runner-friendly audio tech as Bose’s Frames glasses and are available for preorder now for $200.

“Outdoor Business Town USA”: Steamboat Springs has become a proving ground for outdoor innovation

Colorado Sun, Eugene Buchanan from

With more than 90 and counting, Steamboat Springs is well known as a breeding ground for Olympians. But it’s also just as fertile an environment for outdoor businesses, nurturing them with all the right ingredients to succeed.

Forget its snappy “Ski Town USA” moniker. How about “Outdoor Business Town USA”?

Somehow, a veritable Who’s Who of successful outdoor companies have set roots and prospered in this small mountain community in northwest Colorado.

Leading the pack are such outdoor giants as merino apparel maker Smartwool, tent and sleeping bag manufacturer Big Agnes, energy food company Honey Stinger and Boa Technology, a ratcheting system that recently sold for $454 million.

Other brands include Hala Gear, Moots Cycles, Point6, Talon Grips, Hog Island Boatworks, Creek Company, Spiffy Dog, GrassSticks, Cogma Bikewear and more.

AfterShokz Bone-Conduction Headphones Review 2020

New York Magazine, The Strategist blog, Louis Cheslaw from

I fell in love with cycling during the pandemic for the same reasons countless others did: It’s good for you, it’s enjoyable, and it offers a quick, affordable, and (relatively) safe way to travel longer distances while public transport remains something of a risk. But from the get-go, there was one thing I didn’t like so much about riding in a city. Because you’re sharing the pavement with cars, buses, and jaywalking pedestrians, you need to be able to hear the street, which means listening to music and podcasts (as I normally do during commutes) is quite hard while you bike, at least if you want to do so safely. As an audio freak who gets bored easily, I found this alone would sometimes stop me from riding. That was until I got my hands on a pair of AfterShokz headphones — the one thing that has had the biggest impact on my life as a cyclist since I bought my bike itself.

There’s a New Way to Choose the Right Running Shoe

Outside Online, Alex Hutchinson from

Pronation is out of favor, comfort is too vague, but maybe measuring your “habitual motion path” will guide you to a shoe that minimizes your injury risk

HOKA ONE ONE® Launches the Carbon X 2 and Announces Project Carbon X 2: a 100K World Record Attempt in the United States and Japan

PR Newswire, Hoka One One from

HOKA ONE ONE®, a division of Deckers Brands (NYSE: DECK) announces the launch of the Carbon X 2, a lightweight and propulsive shoe designed to help all athletes break their own records. To celebrate this new footwear innovation, HOKA will host successive 100K world record attempts in the United States and Japan by several of its athletes on January 23, titled Project Carbon X 2.


Big moves in pursuit of the circular

Innovation in Textiles blog from

The European Green Deal will see €750 billion pumped into a wide range of projects with the aim of making the entire continent climate neutral by 2050 and is certainly calling for new approaches and strategies. The EU’s Single-Use Products Directive has already acted as a springboard for major change.

Right at the start of the nonwovens supply chain are synthetic fibre and resin producers such as Austria-headquartered Borealis, which has just received a €250 billion European Investment Bank loan to boost its research and development efforts in propelling the industry towards plastics circularity at its Innovation Centres in Austria, Finland and Sweden.

Desalination Breakthrough Could Lead to Cheaper Water Filtration

University of Texas at Austin, UT News from

Producing clean water at a lower cost could be on the horizon after researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and Penn State solved a complex problem that had baffled scientists for decades, until now.

Desalination membranes remove salt and other chemicals from water, a process critical to the health of society, cleaning billions of gallons of water for agriculture, energy production and drinking. The idea seems simple — push salty water through and clean water comes out the other side — but it contains complex intricacies that scientists are still trying to understand.

The research team, in partnership with DuPont Water Solutions, solved an important aspect of this mystery, opening the door to reduce costs of clean water production. The researchers determined desalination membranes are inconsistent in density and mass distribution, which can hold back their performance. Uniform density at the nanoscale is the key to increasing how much clean water these membranes can create.

Smart Textile Alliance rallies for industry standards

WTIN, Fiona Haran from

Founder of the newly launched Smart Textile Alliance, Christian Dalsgaard, and business associate Mili Tharakan, tell Fiona Haran about their aim to innovate the smart textile industry by codifying standards and providing technical support.

The innovation that is emerging from the smart textile market is very promising to see, as companies and research labs continue to develop solutions for many needs – from remote health monitoring wearables to heated garments and haptic technologies etc. At the same time, many of these developers are tackling some of the widely reported hurdles that often hinder commercial growth: washability, comfortability and scalability being just a few that spring to mind.


How safe are winter outdoor activities during the coronavirus pandemic? Experts weigh in

USA Today Travel, Erica Lamberg from

… Spending time outdoors while practicing social distancing can be a welcome respite for people who want fresh air and a chance to get exercise.

“Physical activity promotes our health and well-being,” says Jan K. Carney, professor of medicine and associate dean for public health and health policy at Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. ”It is great for people to stay active outdoors.”


In Their Element – Aluminum

BBC Radio 4 from

Andrea Sella, Professor of Chemistry at UCL, picks five elements that enhance our lives. Today it’s aluminium, once fashionable as cutlery but now used in cans, bicycles and tinsel [audio, 13:36]

Skills, not shortcuts – How Strava fanaticism is plaguing mountain biking

Enduro Mountainbike magazine, Finlay Anderson from

At what point does a training tool become a catalyst for ignorant riding and lazy cheat-lines? Why do we turn into second-shaving KOM hunters as soon as the clock is ticking? It’s simply not good for our sport, its image or our trails. That’s right, we are talking about Strava and why you should leave it behind on your next ride!

Wattbike Atom Indoor Cycle Training

Perform Better UK from

… With 20 years’ experience of building indoor trainers, Wattbike is the pinnacle of accuracy when it comes to replicating the feel of riding on the road. With data in its DNA, Wattbike trainers provide a wide range of real time and post-ride performance analysis data which can help improve your cycling performance. This accuracy and attention to detail are showcased in its latest iteration of the Wattbike Atom, launched in July 2020. From Crank angle sensors which read your data 1,000 times per second an increased power range of 0-2500 watts, the next generation Wattbike Atom satisfies the needs of the amateur enthusiasts to most powerful sprinters in the sport.

The Atom also features a brand new electromagnetic resistance system for instant gear changes and an even better ride feel, combined with Wattbike’s unique Polar View and Pedalling Effectiveness Score (PES) to help enhance your pedalling technique in real time.


New Study Strikes Fatal Blow to 80/20 Training Philosophy

80/20 Endurance blog, Matt Fitzgerald from

I am often asked if the 80/20 rule of intensity balance applies to athletes who train at very low volumes. It’s a fair question. We know that low-intensity exercise doesn’t do a lot of good in small amounts, whereas high-intensity exercise does. It is plausible therefore that, below a certain volume threshold, doing less than 80 percent of one’s training at low intensity will yield better results than sticking to the 80/20 rule.

A new study by Luca Festa of the University of Verona and colleagues addresses this question—sort of. The subjects were recreational runners with at least four years of experience. For eight weeks, half of them followed a “polarized” training program in which 77 percent of training was done at low intensity, 3 percent at moderate intensity, and 20 percent at high intensity, while the other half maintained a 40/50/10 intensity split (“focused endurance training”). Volume was adjusted to ensure that the total training load (intensity and volume combined) was equal for the two groups. This required runners in the polarized group to run slightly more than runners in the focused endurance group, though volume was quite low in both groups, averaging out to 3.73 hours per week and 3.1 hours per week, respectively.

Added sugars and alcohol are not good for you, but diet guidelines unchanged

Food Safety News, Dan Flynn from

This week’s release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans came with less build-up than normal. But, the guidelines are drawing reactions from mild to wild.

The 5-year update, a joint production of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), was carried out without all the usual personal contacts because of the pandemic.

“During the unveiling of the dietary guidelines, USDA and HHS data showed the sad reality that Americans’ eating habits haven’t changed for the better, despite decades of similar guidelines,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. “But today’s reality facing the COVID-19 pandemic brings greater urgency than ever before.

Using Fitbit data to examine factors that affect daily activity levels of college students

PLOS One, Cheng Wang et al. from

To date, the effect of both fixed and time-varying individual, social, psychological, environmental, and behavioral characteristics on temporal growth trends in physical activity (PA) among younger individuals remains an under-studied topic. In this paper, we address this gap in previous work by examining how temporal growth trends in PA respond to changing social, environmental, and behavioral characteristics using a large sample of college students (N = 692) who participated in the NetHealth project at the University of Notre Dame and from which fine-grained longitudinal data on physical activity and social interaction were collected unobtrusively via the use of wearables for 637 days (August 16, 2015 to May 13, 2017). These data are augmented by periodic survey data on fixed sociodemographic and psychological variables. We estimate latent growth-curve models for daily activity status, steps, active minutes, and activity calories. We find evidence of both a generalized friendship paradox and a peer effect for PA, with the average PA level of study participants’ contacts being on average larger than their own, and with this average level exerting a statistically significant effect on individual PA levels. Notably, there was limited evidence of temporal growth in PA across the 637 days of observation with null temporal effects for three out of the four PA indicators, except for daily steps taken. Finally, we find that social, psychological, and behavioral factors (e.g., large network size, high extroversion levels, and more courses taken) are systematically associated with higher PA levels in this sample. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of social, environmental, and behavioral factors (such as peer networks and daily sociability) in modulating the dynamics of PA levels among college students.

public lands

Meet the Curators Who Acted to Save Nat Parks Archives From Wildfires

Adventure Journal, Emily Lin from

As wildfires came dangerously close to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in September 2020, the curator of the archives there worked with Emily Lin, librarian and head of digital curation at the University of California Merced, to evacuate the archives to keep them safe. In this interview, Lin explains how they evacuated the records, what’s in them and why they’re worth preserving.

2nd Annual Threatened And Endangered Parks

National Parks Traveler from

Public-lands funding Congress packaged in the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020 is certain to help address weaknesses across the National Park System in terms of maintenance needs and land acquisitions, but the system continues to suffer from many other threats, both external and within park boundaries.

In this, Traveler’s 2nd annual Endangered And Threatened Parks package, we look at some parks that are either struggling to retain the qualities that led to their inclusion in the National Park System in the first place, or whose qualities are threatened. Our aim is not to examine every single unit of the park system, but to spotlight threats that in some cases might be found at many parks and that are jeopardizing the integrity of the park system.

7 Incredible Hidden Locations In National Parks And Forests

Travel Awaits blog, Jordan Palmer from

… So, if you’re itching to get out but want to avoid crowds, you may want to check out some of the lesser-known hidden gems found inside some of America’s most popular National Parks and Forests.


UChicago scientists pioneer new method of measuring electricity in cells

University of Chicago, UChicago News from

… The Krishnan lab at UChicago specializes in building tiny sensors to travel inside cells and report back on what’s happening, so that researchers can understand how cells work—and how they break down in disease or disorders. Previously, they have built such machines to study neurons and lysosomes, among others.

In this case, they decided to use the technique to investigate the electric activities of the organelles inside live cells.

In the membranes of neurons, there are proteins called ion channels which act as gateways for charged ions to enter and exit the cell. These channels are essential for neurons to communicate. Previous research had shown that organelles have similar ion channels, but we weren’t sure what roles they played.

The researchers’ new tool, called Voltair, makes it possible to explore this question further. It works as a voltmeter measuring the voltage difference of two different areas inside a cell. Voltair is constructed out of DNA, which means it can go directly into the cell and access deeper structures.

New wearable fitness trackers ‘could be powered by people’s sweat’

Yahoo Sports, Rob Waugh from

Fitness gadgets of the future could be powered from an unusual source – the sweat pouring out of their wearers’ bodies.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) created a film which helps to evaporate sweat from skin as people exercise – harvesting it to generate power.

The film is made from cobalt chloride and ethanolamine, chemicals which rapidly absorb water – and can be reused.

Using small electrochemical cells, the researchers show that sweat can generate power – and could herald a future of fitness devices without batteries.

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