TECHVILLE

Beam me up to better health, Scotty

Brave new world of fitness gadgets step right out of Star Trek.


Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 9:27 a.m.

I was never much of a Star Trek fan. More of a lightsaber guy myself. Regardless, before he became the modern day “negotiator,” Captain Kirk, along with his gang, had some pretty impressive tech gadgets. While I doubt we're going to have warp drive, phasers or transporters any time soon, we might have actually duplicated one of Dr. McCoy's favorite devices, the “tricorder.”

You might recall the tricorder as the garish yet fascinating device that Bones would use to scan patients for injuries and vital signs. New health and fitness devices that pair with your smartphone are becoming available that might just cause Mr. Spock to raise an eyebrow.

Scanadu Scout ($199): This sensor-laden puck that fits in the palm of your hand is touted as the first medical-grade tricorder by emulating many of the complex vital statistics only available in an emergency room. The device first blew up records on the crowdsourcing site Indiegogo, and is now becoming available by reservation. Holding the device to your temple can offer a host of vital signs including body temperature, heart beat and oxygen levels. Updates are coming that will offer EKG, EEG and blood-pressure measurements. These powerful measurements are sent to your smartphone, where they can be shared and interpreted with your doctor in real time. Founder Walter de Brouwer is calling this the device that will “rewrite medicine.”

Withings Pulse ($99.95): This little square might not be the proverbial apple a day but it might just tell you if you need one. Not only can you wear this on your wrist at night to monitor sleep levels, but also put it in your pocket and track steps and activity throughout the day. It will even add up the score and count the calories that you burned along the way. You can even press a finger against the device to to test your heart rate. While the information transfers to an informative app, the tiny device also has an LCD readout that gives you immediate results and encouraging messages throughout the day.

Piix Smart Band-Aid: Available now for clinical testing. What sets this device apart from others that detect vital signs is that it attaches sensors directly to your skin and continuously monitors the ebbs and flows of your bodily functions. Bluetooth technology relays this information to your phone or remote servers. The device can detect fluid status, heart rate, respiratory rate, posture and activity. What makes this evolving technology exciting is the ability to detect sudden cardiac arrest by monitoring fluid build-up around the heart. These are the most fatal of heart failures and early warning systems like this could indeed dramatically change the survival rate.

Owlet Baby Monitor ($199): This super sock fits on your newborn's foot and detects a host of vital statistics that keep mommies and daddies perpetually sleeping with one eye open. Is the baby breathing? Heart beating? Too hot or cold? Sleeping face down? All of these measures are safely recorded and sent to an app on your smartphone. They can even come in the form of alarms and warnings. The monitor is available for preorder and is expected to begin shipping in November.

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