CES Highlights: New Running Tech Gear

Running tech gear continues to push the envelope in 2018

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is one of the largest trade shows in the world, with more than 180,000 attendees and almost 4,000 exhibitors spread out over 2.75 million square feet of exhibit space. Fortunately, the Health, Fitness and Sports tech section, along with Home Tech and, yes, even Baby Tech, is concentrated in a separate space inside the Sands Convention Center away from the cutting-edge drones, TV, audio, gaming and auto innovations at the Las Vegas Convention Center. We scoured this year’s CES for the latest and most promising running and fitness tech gear. While there weren’t any major running brands making a big splash—Under Armour did a secondary release of its HOVR shoes with data-tracking capabilities that were previously unveiled at The Running Event trade show—there were plenty of cool products and concepts to drool over at the show.

SOLOS Smart Glasses

Featuring a lightweight and smart design, SOLOS glasses provide performance tools in a seamless experience to enable cyclists, runners and triathletes to safely view performance metrics—such as elapsed time, speed, power, pace, cadence and heart rate—in real time through a miniature display while keeping their eyes on the road or trail. The glasses feature a high-performance polycarbonate lenses and advanced PupilTM display optics, which enable a “heads-up” see-through experience with a larger eye box. Athletes can leverage wearable sensors to measure their run performance, set targets and use the SOLOS platform to track progress on those targets. In addition to performance features, runners can also listen to music, view mobile notifications and even receive audio and visual turn-by-turn instructions. The latest smart glasses offer new audio features, including voice control and the ability to take phone calls, listen to music and engage in group chat communication ($499; Available April 2018.)

 

Peloton Tread

When Peloton launched its Peloton Bike indoor trainer ($1,995) two years ago, it began offering a subscription-based training service with live remote cycling classes broadcast from its New York studio, as well as pre-recorded on-demand classes, broadcast right through the bike’s HD touch screen display console. Essentially it’s a studio cycling experience brought into your home with the ability to fit your schedule and training needs. With more than 5,000 recorded cycling classes and 14 live cycling sessions per day, there are plenty of options. At CES, Peloton introduced the Tread, an innovative treadmill with a giant 32-inch HD touch screen and sound bar, and it will soon be offering live and recorded running, cross-training, yoga and pilates classes. The treadmill has platform made of 57 rubber slats (so there’s no no belt), and an innovative two-knob control system for speed and incline on the side rails, so no need to get off balance at the touch screen for the basics. ($3,995; Available Fall 2018; Required first 12 months $39/month subscription covers one bike, one treadmill and one app. An all-inclusive, 39-month financing option is also available for $149 per month.)

 

Coros Cycling Pace Multi Sport Watch

The only other Coros product to date is a highly instrumented cycling helmet with open ear bone conduction earphones. It is no small matter, given the complexity and the competition, to come out of the gate in the GPS watch business with a highly featured, long battery life, light (43g) and decently priced multi sport GPS watch. Coros seems to have done just that. The Pace has wrist heart rate, ANT+and Bluetooth sensor connections, one button multi sport switching, barometric altimeter, compass, music control, well executed phone notifications, and very complete and easy to see run data fields, including cadence in a beautifully simple and effective interface. At release it is expected it will estimate VO2 max, lactate threshold, predict race times, have an open water mode and make recovery recommendations. Pace has a very impressive battery life spec of 30 hour in GPS mode with an optional external heart rate monitor (we await a wrist heart rate and GPS battery life spec but so far in our testing it appears excellent), 30 days in standard watch mode. It has a 50M water resistance. Setup and sync was flawless and instantaneous, superior to many watches from big players. The comparative data from our first runs was very solid. The app is simple and well organized with data easy to view and analyze. ($300; Available Spring 2018.)

 

Garmin Forerunner 645M

The M stands for music. The 645M is Garmin’s first watch with on board music, up to 500 songs playable to Bluetooth headphones. A version without music, the 645 ($400)  is also available.  It also includes contactless Garmin Pay. Being a Forerunner it is a complete training watch and includes Elevate wrist heart rate sensing along with a full range of run focused features. Light (42g), thin, and available in several stylish case band combinations it doesn’t skimp on protection with its metal bezel and chemically strengthened glass lens. ($450; Available February 2018.)

 

SKIIN by Myant

Myant creators and manufacturers in Canada of SKIIN have developed undergarments with multiple sensors woven into the fabric with only a small snap in module with 24 hour battery life to capture and transmit bio-sensing  data. The underwear can capture ECG heart rate, breathing through conductive yarn, hydration and body fat through water content sensors, motion and steps through gyroscopes and accelerometer, and body temperature and sleep stages through a combination of data from all the sensors. They actually looked and felt like regular underwear, if a bit heavier, with only the small electronics module to distinguish them for the usual. On the run ladies should have the most effective set up using the available bra to track heart rate as HR is more difficult to capture accurately at mid body on the run. For general activity tracking such as steps and sleep SKIIN claims both genders will get more accurate activity figures from the mid body underwear than wrist based solutions.  Not content with just the sensing underwear, SKIIN also showed us a prototype compression sock initially designed for medical uses where the compression can be changed, muscle activity detected (EMG) and heat or muscle stimulation (EMS) applied all through activating the fabric, remotely and electronically. Imagine run compression socks tuned during the run and then for post run recovery. ($499 for an 8-pack and two electronic modules; Available Summer 2018.)

 

LifeFuels Bottle

Since 2014, Life Fuels has been on a quest to create a bottle with a micro dispensing system so that each time you fill with hot or cold water you can choose your potion from one three Fuel Pod cartridges in the base. The approach eliminates waste and offers personalized beverage choices, as you need them.  So in the morning you might want a hot caffeinated brew, after a workout a cold electrolyte or recovery mix and before bed a warm chamomile type tea. Each cartridge makes 15 servings, and with 3 cartridges on board you are good for 45 drinks. You can even swap cartridges on the fly. Fill with water, push a simple button and voila your drink, and then even adjust further to taste. The mixes are all natural. ($149, including three cartridges; Available Summer 2018.)

 

Jabra Elite Active 65t Wire Free Earbuds

Jabra introduced three new models to its Elite series at CES: two wire free 65t earbuds and a corded version, the 45e. Wire free earbuds often face challenges with voice call quality and voice recognition accuracy when using Siri, Google Now, and the new Amazon Alexa-on-the go which is supported.  In most wire free buds, microphones are essentially in your ear instead of below or to the side of your mouth on a cord. To improve voice quality the 65t’s feature a 4 microphone array with wind noise cancellation all located in a tiny projecting boom. While we did not listen to music quality, it can be personalized in the Jabra Sound app. You get 5 hours listen time plus 10 hours from the charger case. The Active 65t differs from the 65t ( as it has an accelerometer for activity tracking, enhanced IP56 water resistance along with as an effective slip free surface to allow better touch control and grip of the tiny buds. Elite is also available in a memory wire corded version, the Elite 45e. ($190; Available in February 2018.)

 

Suunto 3 Fitness Watch 

The Suunto 3 Fitness is a non GPS activity, sleep and heart rate tracker with basic smartwatch features. It has dozens of sport modes. Running stride length can be separately calibrated for walking and running, a great feature. We encouraged Suunto to add more running pace calibrations. Two things really stood out in what is a crowded tracker field. It is a beautiful stylish watch that is thin and light, only 32 g. Second, it features an adaptive fitness training program that guides you during workouts, planning 7 days of workouts based on your overall fitness level based on its estimate of your VO2 max and workout history. It will even adapt the program if you miss a day or overdo it. For runners who rock Suunto GPS watches but find them bulky or not your style for all day use, it is a stylish 24/7 companion which will gather the rest of your cross training, activity, sleep and heart rate data. ($199; Available Spring 2018 with a new Suunto app.)

 

AfterShokz Prototype Sunglasses

AfterShokz previewed an early working prototype of a sunglass with bone conduction earphones attached to the end of the temples. No product name or price was provided and it is expected they “might” appear in the market late in 2018. Even with the lack of precision (not unusual at CES), why did these sunglasses catch our attention? AfterShokz current bone conduction earphones put nothing in your ears, generating the sound you hear through vibration on the bones of your face. They offer great situational awareness, permit conversations on the run, have superb nothing-in-the-ear comfort, and decent sound. The sunglasses not only feature bone conduction earphones but have very comfortable temples that wrap the ear, placing the speaker behind the ear and also securing the glasses. And herein lies the development challenge. Other AfterShokz earphones place the speaker just in front of the ear. While we could “hear” just fine with the speakers behind our ears, the vibration felt was a bit disconcerting and the engineers took careful note. We also wonder how well they will be heard in windy environments. It will be interesting to see where this concept goes.

Brian Metzler and Sam Winebaum
Brian Metzler is the Content Director of MotivRunning.com. Sam Winebaum is a contributing editor who writes about running technology.