加拿大一家穿戴式裝置公司Hexoskin，就推出一款研發智慧上衣，可以測量各種生理數值，包括心跳、計步、卡路里及睡眠活動，也能測量更細緻的項目，像是心跳變異分析（HRV）、心率恢復（Heart Rate Recovery）、心電圖，以及跑步距離、疲勞指數等等。幾乎將市面上所有智慧型穿戴功能，直接一網打盡。
》Altra IQ智慧鞋可提供即時的跑步狀態分析 | Altra IQ smart shoes give you feedback, tips to improve your running form
》Ralph Lauren推出智慧衫結合生物識別技術 | Ralph Lauren's Futuristic Fashion: The PoloTech Smart Shirt
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Hexoskin smart shirt reviewed: Measuring your vitals so you don’t have to
A world where you can slip on a tank top and gym shorts that track all of your workouts is a reality now—but it comes at a steep price. Hexoskin was one of the first companies to put out a range of smart exercise clothing, complete with shirts and tanks for men and women that monitor not just steps and calories but also heart rate, breathing, and more.
But being one of the first means jumping over many hurdles—not just in getting a product right, but also in getting users to buy it. A Hexoskin bundle includes a sensor-laced shirt, "brain pack" with the battery and Bluetooth sensors, and a charging cable costs for $399. That's a lot of money to pay for a garment that's going to get sweat on more often than not, but Hexoskin is hoping the technology underneath the surface will persuade serious gym-goers and athletes to take the plunge.
Design: An extra pocket for good luck
Hexoskin is one of the few smart clothing companies that has specific garments for men and women already. It offers a men's tank, a women's tank, and a men's long sleeve shirt, all of which are made of the same lightweight, breathable, stretchy material. It's that slick kind of fabric many workout shirts are made of, designed to prevent moisture from making you uncomfortable and to keep odors at bay. The entire garment is washable as well, just make sure you remove the brain pack first.
I received the women's tank and I went a size up since these shirts are made to fit tight against the body. On the right side of the tank is a small, rectangular zippered pocket where the pack sits at your natural waist. Inside is a connector stick that slides into the top of the pack, activating it and automatically turning the shirt on. There are no lights or anything ostentatious on the shirt itself, which is great because I didn't get any weird looks from people at my gym when I wore it. The only way for a passersby to tell that the Hexoskin tank is anything but a workout top is by the side pocket.
The women's tank has a built-in bra, and the band that hugs your ribs also holds many of the shirts sensors including the heart rate monitor. There's one other internal ring of sensors that surrounds your middle, right near the belly-button. As the wearer, I could feel these distinct parts of the shirt, but they weren't too tight or uncomfortable. I didn't feel weighed down when wearing the pack in the pocket during all of my workouts either—it definitely takes some getting used to, though. You will feel the pack bulging from your side at first, but ultimately it's not nearly as obtrusive as I thought it would be.
This is partially due to the fact that the brain pack itself is actually quite small and light. It's a simple rectangle with one button at the corner, which you use during initial pairing with your smartphone, and three small lights at the opposite corner to indicate pairing mode and battery levels. One of the shorter edges has been carved into a tube, and that's where you slip the connector stick and the charging stick in order to connect the pack to the shirt or to charge it. It's a funky design, but it's much more secure than if Hexoskin had made the pack with a micro USB port to support it. In terms of battery life, you'll get at least 14 hours of activity monitoring on a single charge of the pack, but it can get up to 150 hours of standby time. Depending on how often you work out, you may not have to recharge for a week or two.
Features: Every move you make, every breath you take, it's tracking you
Hexoskin's shirts are built to monitor everything that's happening beneath the surface when you exercise. It tracks heart rate, heart rate variability, VO2 max, breathing rate and volume, and the usual steps, calories, cadence, and sleep. Before you start tracking, you'll have to make sure the sensor pack is connected to the Hexoskin mobile app, which may seem obvious but I had some issues with this. Sometimes the pack would be on, not yet attached to the shirt, and the app wouldn't recognize it.
Turning your smartphone's Bluetooth settings off then on again usually fixes this—but then make sure to keep your smartphone within Bluetooth range of the pack. Before a workout, I went into my kitchen to grab some water with the pack attached to the Hexoskin tank I was wearing. My smartphone, left in the other room, lost connection immediately and it took at least five minutes for it to be restored. To avoid unnecessary wait time before you start a workout, just keep your phone on you at all times.
After the shirt is properly connected and running, you can go about your training, tracking specific workouts and activities using the app. There are fitness tests you can complete to assess your starting point as well, including ones for resting heart rate and VO2 max. When the shirt first turns on, it will automatically start monitoring real-time heart rate, breathing rate, and breathing volume. You can watch the change in all three of these stats from within the app, and it's cool to see things like how much air you're taking in on each breath.
The garment itself is quite a passive device—you just put it on and it does all the heavy lifting from there. Although, I do wish you could set fitness goals and keep track of them using the shirt and its app. While Hexoskin made a great piece of smart clothing that takes most of the energy out of monitoring exercise, it doesn't give any insight on how to perform better. It also doesn't let you set step, calorie, or heart rate goals.
Hexoskin app: A first-gen experience
Compared to the advanced nature of Hexoskin's shirts, the companion app's design feels outdated. While it's fairly easy to navigate, its interface is blocky and reminiscent of 2008-style apps. In a way, that works to Hexoskin's advantage because there's little to no learning curve for the app. At the bottom of homepage, your real-time heart rate, breathing rate, and breathing volume numbers are shown (they'll change every few seconds or so when your shirt is on and paired, otherwise they will be blank). Just above that is a big "GO" button, which leads you to choosing a workout or activity to track. There's also the last two workouts you saved above that, as well as your most recent fitness test scores if you've completed any the four available exercise tests.
When you begin a session, you can choose from pre-made workout routines or individual activities. While the list of workouts is fairly limited compared to devices like the Microsoft Band, it's a start and provides beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels for many of the routines. You can even create your own "freestyle" workout, where you choose individual activities, put them in a sequence, and complete them on your own. The one issue with that is that you need to choose from the activities in Hexoskin's list, you can't just create your own with really defined moves such as "crunch" or "overhead lift." However, the activities list is pretty thorough and it even includes sports like badminton, baseball, rollerskating, and soccer.
The same way you can see live stats on the homepage while wearing the shirt, you can see live stats when you're completing a workout. During your routine, the app shows heart and breathing rate in the center of the screen, hugged by a timer tracking the duration of your workout, a real-time timeline of your heart rate so you can see where you fall in terms of high and low heart rate zones (you can toggle between heart rate and breathing rate on the timeline as well), and a bottom bar containing calories burned, steps taken, and air inhaled or breathing volume.
I found it really convenient to leave the app open on my phone and periodically check where I was in terms of heart rate, so I could speed up and hit a higher bpm when I felt I needed to pick things up a little. It also made me more conscious of my breathing—whenever I noticed my breathing volume in the single digits, I tried to take deeper breaths and that actually helped me feel less fatigued during longer workouts.
I really liked having that timeline of heart and breathing rate to peek at as well. Unfortunately, though, that timeline disappears once you finish your workout and save it. You can look back at any saved workouts you want and see a bunch of stats: high, low, and average heart and breathing rates, total calories burned and steps taken, and highest and average cadence. However, the timeline of your heart rate and breathing rate changes throughout the duration of your workout is gone, and I was really disappointed by that. I would have liked to look back on my 30-minute elliptical session to see when my heart rate spiked or when my breathing was at its most shallow.
Those detailed charts aren't available in the app, but you can see versions of them by logging into your account on Hexoskin's Web dashboard. However, you'll have to sync your data again by plugging Hexoskin's pack into your computer via its USB charging cable. This saves all of your recorded workouts and data locally, but it takes forever to sync via PC. Since the program syncs each recorded workout individually, often it would seemingly freeze and only upload a workout or two, leaving the currently-importing one hanging at 10 percent completed. I discovered this after I thought my duration graphs were only available during my workout, so I was pleased to see those graphs weren't totally lost (even if I wasn't pleased at how long I had to wait to see them due to snail-paced syncing).
The way of the future for serious fitness buffs
Hexoskin definitely nailed it with two of the most important aspects of smart clothing: comfort and convenience. Its tank feels like a regular workout top and performs like one. It wicks away sweat, moves with your body, doesn't get too gross too quickly, and doesn't get in the way so you can focus on your next rep. The tank itself is convenient because you can wash it just like any other, and when it comes to the smarts of the garment, it's not nearly as intrusive or complicated as you may think smart clothing would be. Yes, you will have to get used to a small pocket near your waist with a battery pack inside of it, but thankfully Hexoskin developed its technology to be small and lightweight. You barely feel it.
While the product is one of the first solid pieces of smart clothing available, the overall experience of using Hexoskin's tank was slightly lacking. The Hexoskin app could use some improvements in interface, but more importantly, I'd like to see a more comprehensive list of workout routines to choose from and a few more individual exercises. I also wanted to be able to set goals to achieve, particularly heart rate zone goals. With such tweaks, the app could have pushed me harder to step up my game or at least inform me after my workout that I wasn't performing up to par to reach my goal.
Hexoskin is asking for a lot for a solid smart shirt and a partially unfinished app experience. Each adult Hexoskin pack is $399, which is no small investment for a first-generation product. If you're a newbie to exercise or someone who works out regularly but isn't necessarily worried about hardcore stats, you'd get more use and value from Under Armour's $399 HealthBox and its wristband tracker, smart scale, and chest strap heart rate monitor that all work together. But for those who live the fittest of fit life, the people who are regularly checking vitals during training sessions and constantly working towards new goals, Hexoskin's clothing—and smart clothing in general—could make your daily routine much easier.
Hexoskin's tank fits comfortably and doesn't feel like you're wearing a piece of technology. And it's fully washable.
Conveniently and consistently tracks heart rate, and breathing rate and volume, along with the standard steps and calories.
Long battery life—it will last you through many one-hour workouts before needing another charge.
You can't set activity or workout goals.
Neither the shirt nor the app gives you insight on what to do with your exercise stats.
Some features of the app that you can see during a workout disappear after you save each session.
Syncing data to your PC takes forever.
That $400 price tag is too big to swallow.
Original Article: arstechnica