This bracelet monitors sun exposure to save skin. (June by Netatmo)
Forget the bundle of socks for your mom, and that “not quite right” gift for your significant other. This year you can get tech savvy, with a plethora of new wearables. While new connected devices abound, we offer our guide to holiday wearables with a nod to realism: one must question whether wearables will end up like parachute pants—an odd relic from yesteryear.
A 2014 report from Endeavor Partners found half of the U.S. consumers who bought a wearable in 2013 no longer use it and 33 percent stopped using it within six months. The key to creating a successful wearable, the reoprt says, is meaningful impact. Products that just track behaviors will ultimately fail; those most likely to succeed will be devices that inspire action and help users make positive change.
With that in mind, here’s our list of inspiring and lesser-known devices for a wide range of people on your gift list.
The Dash: Smart Headphones
Who wants them: Your favorite runner and/or fist bumper
Why they’re cool: These wireless headphones from Bragi are still under pre-order, but athletes and music lovers will be running for this three-in-one “hearable:” a music player, a fitness tracker and a touchpad on the earpiece that allows you to control the audio.
The earbuds connect to your phone via Bluetooth for audio streaming and have 3.5 GB of storage for music or podcasts, with three hours of battery life. Users can also adjust the headphones to block or let in the sounds of their ambient environment.
The Dash measure and record steps, distance, heart rate and oxygen saturation through a set of motion sensors, plus two tiny LEDs that emit light into the capillaries of the skin of the ear. The earbuds also provide real-time acoustic feedback of your progress and are easy to interact with.
Deets: Pre-orders are available for $299 and include a charging case. The Dash work with iOS, Windows and Android devices.
Who wants this: The avid golfer and statistician
Why it’s cool: Game Golf is a digital tracking system that attaches to the top of each golf club and at a player’s waist to record every shot and provide real-time tracking. A GPS and chip reader inside the body-worn device notes which club is in use and where the ball has landed. It also tracks your stats, fairway accuracy, scrambling percentages, shot dispersion for all clubs and yardages.
Deets: With a variety of devices beginning at $99, Game Golf is a relatively inexpensive addition to your golf bag.
Who wants this: Your sun worshipper
Why it’s cool: Bridging the gap of fashion and function, this diamond-inspired bracelet monitors UV exposure and gives users advice on how to best to protect themselves against various UV levels.
June coordinates with your time zone to awake at sunrise and records activity to automatically detect if you’re indoors our outside. The bracelet takes into account your skin type to prescribe a daily “sun dose,” then sends you a smartphone notification when you’ve had too much fun in the sun.
Deets: June is fit for fashionistas at $129 in three colors.
Lumo Lift Posture Monitor
Who wants this: The slouch who wants to shape up
Why it’s cool: This small activity tracker is the equivalent of your mother nudging you to sit up straight. Users assume their best posture, then clip Lumo onto their shirt to calibrate; the sensor will vibrate when you slouch to encourage a better back. The wearable will not only track your posture on an iOS and Android app, but will monitor steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned.
Deets: At $79.99 and with five days’ battery life, Lumo may be the most practical and easy-to-use wearable on holiday lists this year. It’s also a great starter wearable for the skeptics in your life.
Who wants this: Empowered women
Why it’s cool: Looncup is a menstrual cup that substitutes for tampons or pads, and links with your smartphone to track your cycle The cup builds on a growing number of period-tracking apps with an embedded sensor that measures volume, detects color and alerts wearers when it’s time to refresh. Minute changes in the amount or color of menstrual blood could mean something is wrong. Looncup uses this information to analyze menstruation and suggest when a doctor’s appointment might be necessary.
Deets: The cup’s creator, Loon Labs, recently concluded a Kickstarter campaign and is working out shipping times. The Looncup is available for pre-order and will run about $70 retail.
Who wants this: Your favorite gearhead
Why it’s cool: Motorcycles can be dangerous – and that’s part of the fun of two wheels -- Skully is attempting to make riders safer with an augmented reality helmet.
An integrated heads-up-display system provides critical information in a rider’s line of sight and also offers a visual GPS. Skully offers “situational awareness” with an ultra-wide angle rear view camera, blind spot camera and integrated audio components for hands-free calling and directions.
Deets: Skully is shipping to Indiegogo backers but, at $1,499, this may be an investment for only the most advanced motorcyclists. If you’re an ATGATT rider (all the gear, all the time) with cash and rubber to burn, this should be on the tip-top of your wish list.
Get the best of KQED's science coverage in your inbox weekly.