2017 Gear Preview: The Best of C.E.S.

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Every January, thousands of companies, reporters, and tech enthusiasts converge in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CES has historically been the place to show off the newest TV’s, smartphones, and computers; however, advances in technology and the rise of social media have also made people more interested in their own health. As a result, there’s been an increasing presence of health, medical, and fitness technology at CES over the past several years as companies seek to create new products to meet consumers’ changing demands.

CES 2017 was no exception to this trend, and many notable announcements were made during the week about gadgets that can improve your health. Here are some products that were announced that caught our attention:

Omron Project Zero 2.0

Omron, the well-known brand in consumer blood pressure cuffs, showed off the second iteration of their advanced blood pressure monitor called “Project Zero”. What makes Project Zero unique is that it minimizes the ubiquitous inflatable cuff method of blood pressure measurement and shrinks it into a wrist-worn wearable. This makes the device not only more discreet and comfortable to wear, but the wristband form factor allows for all-day and overnight use for near continuous monitoring. As a wearable health device, Project Zero also does step counting, sleep tracking, and syncing to an iOS or Android device to track trends or send data to a physician.

The 2.0 version of Project Zero that was announced this year incorporates a number of new technologies and components that ensures accurate readings. Its appearance has also been redesigned, looking much more like a stylish and contemporary smartwatch.

By using a variant of a blood pressure measurement method that’s been around well over 100 years, one might not think Project Zero is a novel, breakthrough device. But this method uses clinically validated and long-accepted technology which lets users be confident that they’ll always be getting accurate readings. The continuous monitoring that comes with a new, wristband form factor only further expands the possibilities of what we can discover about blood pressure’s role in our health.

Samsung S-Skin

It’s practically an annual tradition to expect announcements about the newest Samsung smartphones, tablets, and Gear smartwatches, but the Korean company’s experimental research arm, C-Lab, used this year’s show to demo some unique concepts that don’t quite fit into Samsung’s mainstream product portfolio.

One such product, S-Skin, is a health device that uses both sensors and therapy to improve your skin. It first analyzes your skin and the surrounding through a combination of cameras, light sensors, and conductivity sensors that measure factors like dryness, melanin, and redness. Using these measurements, the connected S-Skin smartphone app then gives you personalized advice on how to improve your skin’s health. Built-in LED’s on the S-Skin lets you start a light-based skin improvement program right on the spot. But S-Skin takes the skin therapy a step further by incorporating biodegradable, NFC-enabled micro-needle patches that contain ingredients you’d find in over-the-counter skincare products.

While it remains to be seen whether S-Skin actually makes your skin firmer and more radiant, it’s a unique concept that incorporates a lot of different technologies both to assess and treat.

PKVitality K’Track Glucose and Athlete

PKVitality’s “K’Track Glucose” wristband may have the looks of a common smartwatch, but it is actually a wearable glucose monitor. Underneath the watch face, where you might typically find a heart rate sensor, is a special sensor unit consisting of an array of tiny micro-needles. These micro-needles painlessly penetrate the topmost layer of skin and measure the amount of glucose in the interstitial fluid in just a few seconds. K’Track Glucose wirelessly syncs with an iOS or Android device and can be programmed with alerts, reminders, and trends. It’s also showerproof and tracks your steps, distance, and calories, so there’s little reason to take it off.

There’s no limit to the number of readings you can take, but the micro-needle sensor units (known as “K’apsuls”) expire after 30 days, but are user-replaceable.

PKVitality also announced a similar fitness-oriented version, called the “K’Track Athlete”. It works similarly to K’Track Glucose, but instead measures lactic acid, a compound that the body produces which is associated with muscle soreness and fatigue during exercise. Unlike K’Track Glucose, K’Track Athlete can continuously monitor lactic acid, and it can also be worn either around the arm or wrist.

Touch Surgery Augmented Reality Platform

London-based Touch Surgery is a company that has developed a tablet and smartphone app with over 200 interactive training programs for surgical procedures. The app is hugely successful and counts institutions like Stanford and Johns Hopkins and companies like Johnson & Johnson and Stryker as their partners.

At CES, the company gave a teaser of its latest technology that makes the surgical training experience even more immersive – by incorporating augmented reality (AR). It’s partnered with DAQRI, an enterprise augmented reality company that has developed smart glasses, helmets, and heads-up displays for a variety of industries. Using the DAQRI Smart Glasses in particular, users are able to practice surgical procedures on a virtual patient with the ability to look around by moving their head and interact with their environment with their hands. It’s about as close of an experience as surgeons can get without putting live patients at risk, giving them opportunities to practice their skills and learn new ones.

By incorporating surgical education content in augmented reality glasses, Touch Surgery also moves AR one step closer to real operating rooms where they can assist surgeons operating on real patients.

Neofect RAPAEL Smart Glove

For patients recovering from a stroke or neurodegenerative disease, rehabilitation of the extremities is often a long, arduous process. Surprisingly, it’s also a very low-tech approach that usually consists of iterative and repetitive goal-oriented and task-specific motor skills. Moreover, progress measurement can be subjective, making it difficult for therapists to keep patients motivated and challenged. In turn, patients lose motivation and their overall improvement stalls.

Korean company Neofect has announced a smart glove they’ve developed called the “RAPAEL” that has been clinically shown to increase the effectiveness of hand movement rehabilitation training. Lightweight and ergonomic, RAPAEL contains a 9-axis movement sensor, bending sensors on each finger, and electronics to detect orientation, position, and movement of the wrist and fingers.

Data from the smart glove is wirelessly sent to an app which saves and analyzes the data while tracking the user’s progress. An artificial intelligence based learning algorithm also creates a personalized rehabilitation program that dynamically adjusts the level of difficulty depending on the user’s progress. The program consists of a number of games and virtual ADL (activities of daily living) tasks that make rehabilitation a little more fun. The learning algorithm also helps avoids the decline of user motivation and progress that could occur with traditional rehab exercises.

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