Many of us associate fitness trackers with things we strap around our wrists — you know, the bracelet you threw in a desk drawer or have collecting dust on your dresser? But while it might be news to some, wearables as we know them have been evolving for quite some time.
Companies you may never heard of—LifeBEAM, Jabra, Bragi, and Helfis—are on a mission to invade your earspace in the next year or two with one of the latest trends to sweep the activity tracking gadget world: hearing-based wearables, aka hearables. Kind of a lame name, we know, but these small innovative devices have the potential of becoming the new norm when we thinking about fitness tracking — and here’s why:
They’re so much more than glorified headphones
If you own or have wanted to own Apple AirPods, you already have a basic sense of what a hearable is. But while these trendy wireless headphones can do a lot of cool things, like pair instantly with your devices or pick up Siri off your phone — that’s about the peak of their intelligence.
Hearables that target fitness tracking, though, can go as far as offering real-time coaching based on a user’s personal physiology. Devices like the LifeBEAM Vi, which is geared toward runners, uses biosensors to log things like speed, distance, steps from each of your runs, as well as your heart rate. That’s significant because when done right, in-ear pulse monitoring is more accurate than on-wrist.
What makes it truly unique though is that it offers personalized coaching that’ll inform you of your progress, form, and even tell you to pick up the pace when you’re slacking. It’s like having a personal trainer… in your ear. Good luck finding a conventional wearable that serves up that kind of motivation.
Don’t like to be told what to do? The Jabra Elite Sport is another example of what sets hearables apart. The waterproof device can track everything from your heart rate and steps to the number of reps you’re completing during a workout. Not only that, but the accompanying app can gather data from the device to estimate your VO2 max (if you don’t know, that’s the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise). Using the same info, the app also gauges your post-workout recovery time — something no traditional wearable is currently able to do.
Is this the future?
As with all things, hearables do have their downsides. For starters, they are just as pricey, if not pricier than conventional wearables. And while you can mindlessly strap on an Apple Watch or Fitbit and go about your day, headphones don’t offer that kind of practicality. And who wants to be the person that says, “Sorry, can you repeat that? My hearables were talking.”?
When it comes to the fitness realm in particular, there’s no denying that hearables are a threatening rival to traditional wearables. They might not be the best tool to monitor your lifestyle as a whole, but when it comes to optimizing your workouts, they definitely have a lot of potential.
The honest question we’re asking ourselves: how long until Apple notices and takes over the hearables market with the next iOS/AirPod update?