Electric Headphones Induce Dopamine High
Odds are you own a wearable computers. This past year has seen explosive growth for such devices, including fitness trackers, phone watches and motion trackers. Shipments for various devices are poised to reach 76.1 million units by the end of 2015, up 163.6 percent from 2014, according to IT research firm IDC. By 2019, worldwide shipments are expected to reach 173.4 million units. It's safe to say the industry is booming. Here’s a look at some of the most popular and intriguing wearables that hit the market this year. These wearables run the gamut in functionality, from tracking heart rate and activity to zapping your brain to improve your mood and sending off an alarm to help prevent sexual assault.
The Apple Watch
The Apple Watch, which debuted in April 2015, is a sleek wearable that resembles a mini iPhone for your wrist. It’s available in different models, including Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch Edition. It provides advanced health and activity tracking, including wrist-based heart rate monitoring, and can display updates or control music on your smartphone. Models start at $349.
The health-tracking Fitbit ranges in price from the $60 (for the ZIP) to the $250 (for the Surge). Known as the leader in wearable activity tracking, Fitbit sold 4.7 million devices between July and September this year, according to IDC. Real-time information about activity, exercise, food, sleep and more make this slim device attractive to those trying to improve their overall health.
This wearable zaps your brain to change your mood. The white curved Thync connects wirelessly to a smartphone via Bluetooth low-energy. After pairing it with your mobile device, Thync sends low-level pulses of electricity into your head activating pathways in your brain that make you feel calm or energized.
The second generation Motorola Moto 360 includes a heart-rate monitor, music player and GPS. Starting at $299, this Android watch can also be voice-controlled through the “OK Google” command in Google Search.
With motion-sensing technology and coaching guidance, Moov Now ($79.99), available for both Android and iOS, brings workouts to the next level. The wearable aims to improve almost all forms of exercise with instructions and real-time data, from running to cardio boxing and swimming.
Roar for Good
Athena, developed by Philadelphia-based startup Roar for Good, is a coin-size personal safety alarm to help prevent sexual assault. The wearable, which can be worn as a necklace or used an accessory that’s clipped to a shirt pocket, belt or purse, sounds off an alarm and notifies contacts of the user’s location if it’s pressed for three seconds or longer.
A new pair of jeans called #Hellojean, created by Joe’s Jeans, are not only fashionable, but also double as a wearable device, with a dedicated pocked to charge a smartphone (as long as it’s smaller than the iPhone 6). The jeans cost $190 and the battery pack, sold separately, costs $49. The USB cord is hidden in the seams of the jeans so it can “invisibly” connect to the phone.
This wearable motorcycle helmet, with a $1,500 price tag, has a heads-up display, a 180-degree rearview camera and GPS navigation. There’s also a voice-control feature that connects to a phone and can control music.
This insole ($200) tracks your daily steps and calories burned and can also keep your feet warm. Called Digitsole, it provides an extra layer of padding to your sneakers to absorb shock and vibrations when you’re moving.
Like a Glove
Like a Glove smart leggings fit all sizes and include sensors that take measurements -- including waist, thighs, hips and inseam -- at the press of a button. The measurements are then sent to an app that helps select the best jean brands that fit your dimensions. The leggings can be pre-ordered for $40.
This decorative activity tracker for women is an accessory that resembles a leaf and can be work on the wrist, collar or neck. In addition to tracking steps and sleep quality, it also tracks menstruation and ovulation and offers guided breathing exercises to reduce stress. The wearable starts at $119.
There’s a famous saying about things that sound too good to be true. Still, it doesn’t hurt to keep an open mind about things when it comes to emerging technology.
A Florida startup company that made a splash at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is selling a seemingly irresistible concept: A wearable device that gives you all the benefits of a runner’s high, minus the pesky tradition of actually running.
Dubbed Nervana, the device pairs with your phone or music player to add low-power electric nerve stimulation to the audio feed going into your ear. According to the design team, the electrical pulse — timed with the beat of the music — triggers the brain’s vagus nerve, which in turn releases feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These are the “reward” chemicals that the brain generates in response to stimuli like exercise or sex.
Artificial stimulation of the vagus nerve is nothing new, Nervana’s developers say. But they’ve come up with a way to do it without surgery or other invasive techniques. The device’s proprietary earbud technology delivers electrical stimulation to the inside surface of the ear canal and, thereby, the vagus nerve, according to the company’s promotional materials.
What’s more, the Nervana headphones analyze the audio signal coming in from your music player then generate targeted vagus nerve stimulation synchronized with the music signal. Or not: In ambient mode, the headphones don’t need an electronic input signal at all — they’ll key the nerve pulses to go along with whatever music or sound is in the immediate environment. At a concert, say.
As of now, there’s not much hard evidence backing up the company’s claims. And since the device is being marketed as a lifestyle and wellness device, the company doesn’t need any medical or FDA approval. But the Nervana development team has several MDs on board, and anecdotal reports from this year’s CES suggest that something is going on with the Nervana headphones.
The company plans to start selling pre-orders for the $299 headphones in the next couple of weeks, with delivery slated for sometime this spring. Rock on.