Editor’s note: This video interview was recorded with an original intent of publishing in full. However, due to unforeseen issues concerning audio playback (or the lack thereof,) we had to get creative. Enjoy.
Recently funded through the roof on indiegogo, west-coast tech startup Heapsylon has created a fitness tracker unlike any other. Popular models in the market keep track of your steps, distance and speed — and that’s all fine and dandy. But CTO and inventor Mario Esposito felt that this technology could be taken a step further (pun intended.)
Sensoria is comprised of three parts; a “smart sock,” a magnetic ankle band, which affixes to the sock and a companion app. The Android 4.3- and iOS7-based application will track a runner’s distance and speed, of course; but impressively, also the impact of the terrain, foot striking, posture, cadence and more. Through this system, Sensoria is reinventing smart fitness, providing personal health data and methods to help the user reach their goals, while avoiding injuries and improving performance.
Mario Esposito (CTO) shows it’s just a normal sock, right?
The sock is made of fabric, but as the company says, “The Garment is the Computer.” Smart fabric, using microelectronic sensors pick up on ‘pressure data,’ which communicates with the anklet, then uploads (in real-time) to the mobile app, or it can be viewed through a web platform. The Sensoria smart sock is washing machine and dryer safe, and when ready for market, will be feature a “trendy Italian design.”
One of the earliest rounds of prototypes looked like this
From the start of the R&D phase (over two years ago,) the three-man team of developers (all athletes in their own rights, Esposito being a former professional distance runner,) focused their efforts on the human foot because (well, running, and) they felt it’s “constantly under pressure and underserved by technology innovation.” In the panel above, Esposito shows one of the early Sensoria ankle band prototypes. As you can see, it’s rather bulky and made from stiff materials. It was a great start but overall, the team new that they could take their idea to a new level.
Versus the team’s final design (side by side)
Here we see the final version of the Sensoria ankle band. Sporting a much sleeker design, soft-touch plastic, very light and most importantly, bendable to fit ankles of all shapes and sizes. The band is Bluetooth LE (Smart) certified, requiring little power and usable for weeks on a single charge (via microUSB port.) Esposito’s team estimates that on a single charge, a user will see up to 18 days worth of power if used for two hours each day.
When hitting market, the ankle band will closely resemble the black unit in the clip above. It’ll be available in black, white, pink and light blue. The ankle band hardware was designed and will be manufactured in the good ol’ U.S.A by Flextronics, the second largest global Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) company by revenue (CircuitsAssembly.com.)
Durable yet bendable; a perfect fit for all ankle types
Universal. Because not all body types are the same!
The sock can detect weight distribution; transmits data to ankle band
Inside the device are tools to help measure a user’s performance, including a three-axis accelerometer, an altimeter, three textile pressure sensors and offline storage. These sensors will actually observe where a runner’s weight is being distributed on their feet.
Also, it’ll measure the incline/decline of a user’s exercise terrain
This can aid in the system providing tips to prevent dangerous running practices like “heel striking” or “excessive forefoot running that could lead to back pain or Achilles tendon injuries.” If the computer senses these ‘missteps,’ it’ll trigger the app to guide the runner to better posture with audible cues and strategies, right into a pair of earbuds. They call this their Cadence Metronome, keeping a user’s stride in proper rhythm.
The mobile app also uses Google Maps satellite technology to track a user’s location and learn more about the location and earth conditions.
Esposito then demonstrated the dashboard iteration of the Sensoria software. Before watching the results appear on screen in real-time (via the linear graph,) a few variables can be adjusted to fine tune the scrutiny of the sock/ankle band components.
With the body motion selection box, you can tell the system how you plan to move for the session: running, walking or staying still. The terrain selection will provide a better idea of how the computer will visualize a correct stride and develop a system of analysis for the audible coach. Users can also ‘save’ their shoes in the system, which will remember the profile, stats and presets from previous sessions using a particular pair.
Walking in place
Users can decide what information the graphs will demonstrate and switch back and forth, in real-time or retrospectively. In the panel above, Esposito shows the graph reacting to his walking in place.
Running in place
Another cool feature is the real-time weight distribution analyzer. The smart sock can detect, in real-time, a runner’s body weight and where it lands on their foot. The Foot Landing gauge works with the Stride Analyzer, monitoring each step, compared to average stride length. All this information affects the messages spoken by the ‘coach,’ to motivate, teach and improve performance.
Incline setting; Enhanced-gaming possibilities
Viewing the incline settings is pretty interesting. Esposito pointed out that this feature will most likely become utilized by the gaming industry in some way. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was able to reveal at the time of the interview but he confirmed that the Sensoria smart sock will provide an interactive video gaming experience unlike any other; smarter, more involved and more accurate, with nearly zero lag time.
Esposito’s company has a very strong ‘open API’ policy, offering an SDK that developers can use for harnessing Sensoria’s data in their own applications, now on sale from their web-store. Another thing he pointed out is that although he feels his fitness tracker is superior to others on the market, he knows of and encourages ways to synch his product with other devices such as ANT devices, heart rate monitors and other fitness tech.
Sensoria by Heapsylon is an unprecedented fitness tracker. It’s providing ‘heaps’ of more analytics than anything else like it in the market and can very well become the new standard for health tracking technology. Currently, they are in the process of talking to some ‘super high-profile’ players interested in the company’s technology. This week, they introduced a Sensoria fitness smart bra and smart t-shirt, both made and utilized like the sock.
Mario Esposito and his team are catching some major momentum in the tech world. Keep an eye on these guys, trust me. In the near future, you’re not going to want to be the last person still wearing ‘dumb’ socks, right?
<Thank you to Mario Esposito, Luke Lappala and Heapsylon>