Outdoors + Tech newsletter – November 12, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for November 12, 2020



Fitbit beats expectations by $64.9M as Google merger remains tied up in regulations

MobiHealthNews, Laura Lovett from

Fitbit is coming out of its third quarter beating its expected revenue by $64.9 million. This comes ahead of its much-anticipated merger with Google. Fitbit did not hold an earnings call due to the pending merger but did release figures on the quarter.

In the release, Fitbit CEO James Park attributed some of the success to the release of the Fitbit Sense, the company’s first smartwatch to include an ECG app and stress indicator. In fact, according to the latest report, smartwatches now represent 60% of Fitbit’s revenue.

New smartwatch app alerts deaf and hard-of-hearing users to common home-related sounds

National Science Foundation, Research News from

Smartwatches offer people a private method for getting notifications about their surroundings — such as a phone call, health alerts or an upcoming package delivery.

Now University of Washington researchers have developed SoundWatch, a smartwatch app for deaf and hard-of-hearing people who want to be aware of nearby sounds. When the smartwatch picks up a sound the user is interested in — examples include a siren, a microwave beeping or a bird chirping — SoundWatch will identify it and send the user a friendly buzz along with information about the sound.

Coros Apex Review

RunToTheFinish blog, Amanda Brooks from

The Coros Apex is a beast of a running watch with stellar battery life, tools you’ll actually utilize and with plenty of options to find the fit that works for you.

I’ve been running in the Apex Premium white 46mm for the last three weeks. If you’re used to another brand, it’s a little like going from an automatic car to a stick shift. Neither is technically better, there’s just some learning to get the hang of the different gears.

non-wrist wearable

2020 IFF Innovation Award winners announced

Innovation in Textiles blog from

The Industrial Fabrics Foundation (IFF) recently announced the winners of the 2020 IFF Innovation Award. The IFF Innovation Award encourages companies around the globe to weave tomorrow’s ideas into the fabrics of today. The first-place winner was awarded to Propel LLC for its Propel LLC Smart Integrated Shirt project.

Propel’s US Navy funded smart shirt includes 3-patent pending innovations to monitor the physiology of the wearer in a garment that looks and feels no different than any other first layer garment. This shirt is made with Propel’s proprietary electrically enabled yarn that looks, feels and behaves like a traditional yarn but has the conductive elements needed for transmitting data and power.

The shirt has solder-free textile connectors that are soft and flexible for wearer comfort and user-transparency. All components within this shirt are US sourced. This project led to 3 patent pending technologies.

Knight Campus scientist looks to advance health devices

University of Oregon, Around the O from

Newly published research co-led by Jonathan Reeder, a new member of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, provides a preview of health monitoring devices and tools for fundamental brain research he is now pursuing at the UO.

In a new paper, completed during his postdoctoral work at Northwestern University, his team detailed advances in a soft, bandage-like patch lined with tiny channels and electronic sensors that collect and analyze sweat for health monitoring purposes. The paper published online Oct. 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In his new lab, work will continue on advancing the type of soft, biointegrated devices that was detailed in the paper, said Reeder, who joined the UO in September. He also has his sights set on an implant to mute pain following surgical repairs.

Earphone tracks facial expressions, even with a face mask

Cornell University, Cornell Chronicle from

Cornell researchers have invented an earphone that can continuously track full facial expressions by observing the contour of the cheeks – and can then translate expressions into emojis or silent speech commands.

With the ear-mounted device, called C-Face, users could express emotions to online collaborators without holding cameras in front of their faces – an especially useful communication tool as much of the world engages in remote work or learning.


SkiClicker Makes Ski Rental in Corona Times Faster and Safer

ISPO, Lars Becker from

An innovation by the Swedish brand No More Boots makes ski rental faster and safer in times of the Covid 19 pandemic. Customers can keep the ski boots on their feet right after they have tried them on successfully.

Garmin adds pregnancy tracking capabilities to smartwatches

MobiHealthNews, Mallory Hackett from

Along with the pregnancy tracking app, Garmin also came out with a contraction timer app for mothers entering labor.

UnderArmour sells MyFitnessPal for $345 million, bets on MapMyRun and connected running shoes

ZDNet, Larry Dignan from

Under Armour said it will sell its MyFitnessPal unit to Francisco Partners in a deal valued at $345 million.

The company said the sale was part of its ongoing transformation and “reduces the complexity of our consumer’s brand journey.”

MyFitnessPal has more than 200 million users. Under Armour said it will sunset its Endomondo fitness platform but keep MapMyFitness, which includes MapMyRun and MapMyRide. Going forward, MapMyFitness and Under Armour’s connected footwear will lead its digital strategy.


Moving at the Speed of Government: Ligado 5G Plan Inches Forward

Inside GNSS, Dawn M.K. Zoldi from

Six months ago, the FCC unanimously granted Ligado’s amended license modification applications to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band. Petitions for reconsideration remain pending, interest groups continue to agitate for change, Congress awaits answers to conflict-of-interest questions—and Ligado presses forward as planned.

It may seem odd that Ligado Networks LLC continues to establish foundations for its spectrum foothold while a large number of groups clamor for a re-do, but it’s not surprising. The 72-page April 2020 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Order and Authorization order took effect upon release. It stipulated that Ligado could begin its commercial ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) operations 90 days thereafter, so long as Ligado complied with its terms and its twenty-four paragraphs of conditions.

One such condition was a requirement that Ligado file status reports with the FCC every six months. In its first such report on October 20, company Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Valerie Green outlined “progress in implementing the Order’s various reporting mechanisms and operational safeguards.”

Implantable sensor could measure bodily functions — and then safely biodegrade

Penn State University, Penn State News from

Sensors that monitor a patient’s condition during and after medical procedures can be expensive, uncomfortable and even dangerous. Now, an international team of researchers has designed a highly sensitive flexible gas sensor that can be implanted in the body — and, after it’s no longer needed, safely biodegrade into materials that are absorbed by the body.

In a study, the researchers reported they designed a flexible and implantable sensor that can monitor various forms of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas in the body. Monitoring these types of gases is important because they can play either a beneficial or, sometimes, harmful role in human health, according to Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, Dorothy Quiggle Career Development Professor in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics and an affiliate of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences.


The 3 Best Softshell Jackets of 2021

Backpacker, Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan from

If you’re moving, you’re sweating. And if your layers don’t breathe, that sweat has nowhere to go. Whether you’re hiking, climbing, or skinning up a peak in the backcountry, a comfortable, versatile softshell should be part of everyone’s kit, and strides in materials and construction mean that the compromises of swapping out your hardshell are minimal. Grab one of these three jackets and get moving.

All-Terrain Traction: Kahtoola EXOspikes Boast Road-to-Trail Grip

GearJunkie, Sponsored Post from

Traction spikes help hikers and runners find their footing in wintry conditions, and that extra confidence can help tackle bigger goals. However, the traction options for hiking and running have mostly been mission-specific — until now.

With the EXOspikes, Kahtoola bridges its road and trail winter traction devices with a hybrid of both. These are dying for the Goldilocks analogy, and well, that was the goal. The brand’s designers worked from customer feedback (or demands) for a traction device they could keep on from the front door to the trail and back.

Best Dog Running Gear for Trail Running with Dogs

Podium Runner, Lisa Jhung from

Running trails with a dog has numerous benefits for both human and canine—dogs make great company, and they add safety for otherwise-solo runners. Dogs also provide motivation to get out the door and on to the trails, as the soft surface of trails is better for a pup’s health than hard concrete or asphalt. Plus, have you ever seen an unhappy dog on a trail run? It’s a win-win.

That said, trail running with a dog can be a pain in the butt if you don’t have the right gear. We tested leashes, harnesses, and extras to to find the best dog running gear—the products that make hitting the trails with your dog doggone great.


NU researchers design antiviral mask fabric

The Daily Northwestern student newspaper, Russell Leung from

A team of NU researchers found that face masks treated with antiviral agents may reduce the infectiousness of the wearer.

This discovery, published in a materials science journal, could help combat the spread of COVID-19. The group received a Rapid Response Research grant from the National Science Foundation in March to support their work.

Bundle Up! This Winter’s Best Tech Might Be a Good Coat

WIRED, Gear, Katie Day Good from

… Masks, lawn chairs, picnic blankets, tents, and weather-appropriate clothing all became essential equipment over the summer. They made it possible for us to meet with people outside of our households and in the relative safety of the outdoors. Now, as winter approaches, these simple technologies have taken on new importance as devices of social connectivity. If we’re lucky, they might help us sustain a physical co-presence that even our highest-tech innovations can’t support.

The cloth mask, not Zoom, has been the breakaway technology of 2020. While it’s become ubiquitous and, in many places, required, it wasn’t that way at the start of the pandemic. The US missed key opportunities to make this low-cost tool available and communicate its importance. The Trump administration played down the utility of masks and nixed a plan to ship a pack of five reusable ones to every household in April. When public health officials started recommending masks, my family got our first ones from neighborhood volunteers, who ran donated scraps of brightly colored cloth through their sewing machines to ensure that our community in Ohio was covered.


The Most Effective Cardio Workout, According to Science

Medium, Elemental, Christie Aschwanden from

… Finding your optimal cardio workout might seem like a complicated project, but it turns out that you can achieve your best cardio self by mastering a few fundamentals.

I asked some experts to identify the key features of an ideal cardio program and answer questions like: How much cardio training do you need to do? Can short bursts of exercise really make you fit? How hard do you have to push yourself to get benefits? Are intervals really necessary?

Here’s what you need to succeed.

The Science That Spans #MeToo, Memes, and Covid-19

WIRED, Ideas, C. Brandon Ogbunu from

The technical term is “directed onion decomposition.”

It describes how centrally embedded an individual is in a network of others. The deeper in this “onion” they are, the more connections they have. The network being studied: NHL Hockey fights.

Researchers at the University of Vermont, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Dartmouth College analyzed 10 years of hockey fight data and reconstructed these brawls into a network where lines were drawn between participants. They found that hockey enforcers who were more centrally connected to others through combat tended to be stronger fighters.

Because “enforcers”—whose primary role is to protect their teammates, intimidate opponents, and fight—are a small proportion of hockey players, they provide a model for how network structure can reveal features of how people who participate in non-normative behaviors function in a “society.”


Biggest Gravel Event Around, Dirty Kanza, Rebranded as ‘Unbound’

Adventure Journal from

Dirty Kanza, The Dirty, DK, it went by a few names, but it was, or is, the biggest gravel racing event in the land. Founded in 2006, the race bounds over short, flowing hills in Kansas (yes, they exist) and attracts riders from around the world. It’s 200 miles of brutality, with riders dealing with pain, flats, mud, heat, other riders, existential angst, pretty much everything.

This summer, race founder Jim Cummins was ousted after making insensitive comments on his Facebook page about a police shooting. The company that owns the race, Life Time, bought it last year. After Cummins was dismissed, a clamor arose among riders and activists that the name Dirty Kanza ought to be changed. Kanza is a term that can refer to the Kaw Nation, indigenous to Kansas and Oklahoma. Dirty Kanza struck some as unnecessarily offensive to Indigenous people from the area, so Life Time decided to end the name, referring to the race as DK until they chose a new one.

Unbound Gravel is the new name.

Can Anyone Do Anything About Bike Theft?

Seven Days, Margaret Grayson from

… Local Facebook and Front Porch Forum pages are full of missing bikes. Bikes have disappeared from backyards, downtown bike racks and the UVM campus. Some bikes were unlocked, but others were absconded by thieves who cut locks, removed tires and even hacked through the wooden bars of porch railings. It’s so common that it’s become a punch line, a meme, a Burlington Thing.

But bike theft isn’t unique to the Queen City. According to estimates by 529 Garage, a bike registry website, more than two million bikes are stolen every year in the U.S. — and only one in five is reported to the police. Theft puts a dent in bike ridership: 25 percent of theft victims report riding less after the incident, and 7 percent quit cycling altogether.

Bikes are attractive to thieves for many reasons, according to the Arizona State University Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Bikes are widely available, fairly valuable, inconspicuous to be seen with, and easily flipped and sold. But not all bikes are stolen for resale; sometimes, people just need a ride from one place to another and later abandon the bike.


Why Runners Should “Listen to the Scientists”

80/20 Endurance blog, Matt Fitzgerald from

… As an experienced endurance coach who respects science, I have long been highly circumspect in using science to inform my coaching practices. I always check new science against what I know from real-world experience before I incorporate it into my coaching practice. But studies based on the big-data approach are my kind of science because they’re really just a formalized version of the learning we coaches do in the real world.

So I was particularly excited to see a new study titled “Human Running Performance from Real-World Big Data” in the journal Nature. It’s a true landmark investigation, drawing observations from data representing 1.6 million exercise sessions completed by roughly 14,000 individuals. Its authors, Thorsten Emig of Paris-Saclay University and Jussi Peltonen of the Polar Corporation, are clearly very smart guys who understand both statistics and running. The paper is highly readable even for laypersons like myself, and it’s also available free online, so I won’t belabor its finer points here. What I will say is that its three key findings squarely corroborate the conclusions that elite coaches and athletes have come to heuristically over the past 150 years of trying stuff.

Accelerometer Based Data Can Provide a Better Estimate of Cumulative Load During Running Compared to GPS Based Parameters

Frontiers in Sports & Active Living journal from

Running is a popular way to become or stay physically active and to maintain and improve one’s musculoskeletal load tolerance. Despite the health benefits, running-related injuries affect millions of people every year and have become a substantial public health issue owing to the popularity of running. Running-related injuries occur when the musculoskeletal load exceeds the load tolerance of the human body. Therefore, it is crucial to provide runners with a good estimate of the cumulative loading during their habitual training sessions. In this study, we validated a wearable system to provide an estimate of the external load on the body during running and investigated how much of the cumulative load during a habitual training session is explained by GPS-based spatiotemporal parameters. Ground reaction forces (GRF) as well as 3D accelerations were registered in nine habitual runners while running on an instrumented treadmill at three different speeds (2.22, 3.33, and 4.44 m/s). Linear regression analysis demonstrated that peak vertical acceleration during running explained 80% of the peak vertical GRF. In addition, accelerometer-based as well as GPS-based parameters were registered during 498 habitual running session of 96 runners. Linear regression analysis showed that only 70% of the cumulative load (sum of peak vertical accelerations) was explained by duration, distance, speed, and the number of steps. Using a wearable device offers the ability to provide better estimates of cumulative load during a running program and could potentially serve as a better guide to progress safely through the program. [full text]

Grizzly bear facial recognition promises to revolutionize wildlife management

Vancouver Sun, Randy Shore from

A facial recognition system for grizzly bears could usher in a new wave of celebrity animals that scientists and the public could follow through their lifetimes.

Biologists at the University of Victoria have teamed up with software experts to create an artificial intelligence (AI) that can recognize individual bears even though they don’t have much in the way of identifiable facial features.

“Learning about individual animals and their life stories can have really positive effects on public engagement and really help with conservation efforts,” said lead author Melanie Clapham.

public lands

Hiker data shows impacts from pandemic, increase in novice hikers

Adirondack Almanack from

Due to the pandemic, this summer saw a surge in outdoor recreational pursuits this summer at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Heart Lake Program Center, according to a press release from the ADK Mountain Club.

As a result of this major increase in hiking traffic (from unprepared novice recreationists), there was a rise in illegal camping, discarded trash, unburied human waste, and in increase in conflicts between humans and wildlife. ADK has continued its efforts to educate visitors to minimize their impact on the environment, there has been several emerging trends that make doing so challenging. Data collected through the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program, the Recreational User Experience and Perspectives: Adirondack Park survey (RUEADK), and a partnership between ADK, the Adirondack Council, and SUNY-ESF sheds light on some of these trends below.

Yosemite Conservancy Funds $14 Million In Projects At Yosemite National Park

National Parks Traveler from

In a year that has tested and strained national parks and National Park Service staff at times because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Yosemite Conservancy has been able to provide $14 million for education, preservation, research and other projects at Yosemite National Park.

“Yosemite inspires daily and in difficult times,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean. “It feels more important than ever for the Conservancy to support improvements all around the park, to preserve its natural and cultural wonders, and to offer ways for people to connect with Yosemite in person and from afar.”

Conservancy-funded grants this year are going to more than 35 beneficial projects in the park. Among wildlife-focused grants, a study completed this summer revealed peregrine falcons are nesting in places never before recorded. That research helps wildlife managers refine strategies to protect the falcons’ breeding areas.


The Batteries of the Future Are Weightless and Invisible

WIRED, Science, Daniel Oberhaus from

Elon Musk made a lot of promises during Tesla’s Battery Day last September. Soon, he said, the company would have a car that runs on batteries with pure silicon anodes to boost their performance and reduced cobalt in the cathodes to lower their price. Its battery pack will be integrated into the chassis so that it provides mechanical support in addition to energy, a design that Musk claimed will reduce the car’s weight by 10 percent and improve its mileage by even more. He hailed Tesla’s structural battery as a “revolution” in engineering—but for some battery researchers, Musk’s future looked a lot like the past.

“He’s essentially doing something that we did 10 years ago,” says Emile Greenhalgh, a materials scientist at Imperial College London and the Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on structural batteries, an approach to energy storage that erases the boundary between the battery and the object it powers. “What we’re doing is going beyond what Elon Musk has been talking about,” Greenhalgh says. “There are no embedded batteries. The material itself is the energy storage device.”

Facebook & CMU Open Catalyst Project Applies AI to Renewable Energy Storage

Synced from

Facebook AI and the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Department of Chemical Engineering yesterday announced the Open Catalyst Project. The venture aims to use AI to accelerate the discovery of new electrocatalysts for more efficient and scalable storage and usage of renewable energy.

To help address climate change, many populations have been increasing reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which produce intermittent power. The electrical energy from the intermittent power sources needs to be stored when production exceeds consumption, and returned to the grid when production falls below consumption. In California for example, solar generation peaks under the afternoon sun, while demand continues strongly into the evening.

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