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Start-up Unveils a Shiny New Activity Tracker

New gadget could be a hit with the quantified self movement

2 min read
Start-up Unveils a Shiny New Activity Tracker
Misfit Wearables

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The interesting start-up Misfit Wearables has unveiled the prototype for its first product, a small and sleek activity tracker called the Misfit Shine that users can clip onto their clothes or wear around their wrists. This elegant and unobtrusive gadget could be a big hit with "quantified selfers," the growing tribe of analytically minded people who are using new gizmos to track their every action and meet their wellness goals. 

The San Francisco-based company has launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, hoping to raise $100 000 by mid-December, and promises to ship the product to its early supporters in March. Misfit CEO Sonny Vu says the company has raised plenty of money via venture capital, and sees the Indiegogo campaign primarily as a way to raise the company's profile and generate some buzz. "We need consumer validation more so than the money," he told me in an email. "We wanted to see if people will actually pay for this thing." 

The Shine will compete with fitness trackers already on the market, like the clip-on Fitbit and the BodyMedia arm band. (For more on these gadgets, check out the IEEE Spectrum feature story "How I Quantified Myself," in which intrepid reporter Emily Waltz tried out a plethora of gadgets for several months.) 

But Vu told me in a phone call that the Shine is distinguished by its simple design and its durability: It's made of "aircraft-grade aluminum" and is waterproof. "It’s a very material-driven project," says Vu. "Other activity trackers, they have decent looking design, but they're made of rubber and plastic. They're not in the same class of product as your Tiffany earrings or your watch." 

To make wearable technology that's appealing to mainstream consumers (i.e. not just data geeks), Vu says companies need to prioritize comfort and fashion. "We want to achieve high wearability," he says. "Once we have that, we can insert more functionality. But we don’t compromise on user experience." To keep that user experience simple, Misfit Wearables designed a gadget that never needs to be plugged in. The Shine's battery lasts about six months, says Vu, and it syncs wirelessly with your smartphone, where you can review your stats. 

For more details, check out the video below.  

Photo and video: Misfit Wearables

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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