Huge applause goes to the Best Buy Canada team for organizing the #LifeAndTech expo at Dundas Square in Toronto. The day was jam-packed with the latest in wearable technology as well as the chance to immerse into virtual reality. I must preface, I wrote this post at the end of a very long (yet fun) day of tweeting for @BestBuyCanada. In addition, the expo ended with a mesmerizing performance by Bob Marley’s son, Ky-Mani. He jammed out so many great tunes, which included his father’s song “One Love.” I’m high on music! Here’s my full summary of the event.
The#LifeAndTech expo was filled with panel discussions, fashion shows, and booths from over 25 vendors showcasing their best wearable tech gadgets. Torontonians had a chance to play and learn about new products, win prizes and meet celebrities. Let me name-drop a few Raptors players: James Johnson (Blast Motion) and Patrick Patterson (House Of Marley).
The event launched with a panel discussion titled so fitting to the theme, “What the heck is wearable technology?” Wearable tech can also be referred to as wearable gadgets. They are tech devices that can be worn by a consumer and for the most part offer tracking information related to health and fitness. The first things that come to mind are the smartwatches, and fitness trackers; devices designed to wear on your wrist. Watches are here to stay but they are becoming more stylish, fashionable and customizable. Garmin Forerunner GPS series does the best to keep track of your stats during and after a run by analyzing your time, distance and pace in real time. Garmin definitely won for the most colourful variety of watches. A smart choice, as one of the principle concerns raised during the panel discussion was that women have been slow to adopt wearable tech.
Tom Emrich, founder of We Are Wearable, says that it’s important for wearable tech to be customizable and offer a variety of accessories, especially to appeal to women. Giovanni Tomaselli, founder and CEO, iON America, recommended companies be inclusive rather than exclusive. Women are picky shoppers but inclined to purchase items to match their style and colour preference. Designing to include more women will also help to make the prices lower so that families can enjoy the technology.
Next to Garmin, I was also impressed by the designs at Motorolo for the Moto360 watches. Rick Hoobler, Design Director for Motorola, revealed that they hired a team of female designers to create fashionable products. Kudos to the design team because, I would totally wear the rose gold Moto360 with a fancy black dress to my next cocktail party. Another classic chrono watch comes from Withings with its Activite Pop. They use a nice pop of pink but not the ugly hue that looks like Pepto-Bismol. (Ladies who play golf know what I mean).
Part of the event was devoted to acknowledging that technology is able to augment our reality; it now has access to our bodies (sounds scary but there are benefits). So, you might wear clothes to make you warmer or cooler but wearable technology has the ability to make you see better, walk faster, or sleep calmer.
Zayn Jaffer of Best Buy Canada emphasized the “wrist is seamless” aspect of wearable tech: largely a result of maturity in the software. By a quick glance on your wrist, you can get directions, update on a Blue Jays game, social media notifications, as well as do every day tasks like turn on the lights at home. Emrich added that the recent Android update allows you to speak to your wrist but it’ll translate to any language. This is pretty sweet, especially if you love to travel and worry that you can’t get by because you don’t know the language.
Wearable tech let’s you take photos easier thanks to the launch of iON’s SnapCam. Essentially, you snap a stylish little camera onto your shirt and continue your day. Your memories will be saved, no need to go into your purse to grab your phone or camera to snap a picture(s).
Can wearable gadgets keep you motivated with your fitness regime? Purchasing a cool new wearable gadget does give you the same “fresh start” high as signing up for a gym membership. Usually, that leads to a highly motivated start but then it drops to barely showing up. I asked the panel how the software is going to evolve to keep people committed long term. Hoobler of Motorolo stated that it’s an ongoing process but a notification saying “we haven’t seen you in a while” won’t suffice. Soon technology will be able to process why individuals lose motivation. Emrich added that it’s up to the humans to stay motivated (touché) but the data can provide perspective to why one needs to stay on a healthy path. For example, if you don’t go for a 20 minute walk three times a week, you’ll likely experience heart disease in four years. Information is key and sometimes a wake up call is all you need.
Another panel discussion was on “how wearable tech elevates health and fitness.” Since wearable tech has always been associated with watches or anything that goes on your wrist, this panel takes opens our eyes on some really awesome gadgets from Muse, iHealth, Withings, Zepp, Basis, and Bellabeat.
In wearable gadgets, the term “health dashboard” is highly used: essentially, tracking your body’s heart rate, sleep quality, run/walk pace, blood pressure, body fat percentage, etc. All this information derived from one’s wearable gadget is turned into data and tracked onto its health dashboard. The panelists discussed how this information can soon be transferred to your doctor so that they can leverage the technology and have a better understanding of one’s health.
Studies show that meditation is beneficial to one’s health, by reducing stress and anxiety. Jackie Cooper, Executive VP of Sales and Marketing at Muse, mentioned that most people don’t meditate because they think they are doing it wrong. Muse developed a headband that will take a snapshot of your brain in an active state. Via Bluetooth, the headband connects to an app and provides you with an analysis; it rates your level of calmness. Muse had a booth at #LifeAndTech, and I spoke to an attendee named Anna who tried the product and said, “it’s incredible.” According to the Muse app, Anna was able to get 45% calmer—impressive since there was so much noise at the event from the DJ spinning, to panel discussions, and of course there was a massive, loudly enthusiastic crowd. Who wouldn’t want to more easily become calmer and more focused.
There was also new innovative tech for new parents. Pheobe Dykstra, former TV host and VJ, is now a spokesperson for Bellabeat, which is wearable tech in the form of a necklace. It’s a beautiful product made with ashwood. Phoebe loves it because it keeps her on track of her daily meditation practice. It’s uniquely designed to help women monitor monthly changes in their bodies, including ovulation cycles!
That’s right, wearable tech can help with real-life health. iHealth’s Steve Monnier talks about how he has type 2 diabetes, and thanks to wearable tech, he’s been able to monitor his health more effectively. Wow, that gives me chills of joy.
Later in the day, #LifeAndTech discussed how wearable technology charges up sports and entertainment. Michael Bentley, founder of Blast Motion, a motion sensor that can be attached on a golf club, baseball bat, or clipped on your gym shorts. Ultimately Blast will help your game from analyzing your golf and baseball swing to tightening up your jump shots on the court. Bentley, who is also a coach, states that data received from these devices helps him to effectively coach his athletes. He also identified this as an opportunity to change the relationship between athletes and coaches in a good way (obviously). James Johnson, a Toronto Raptors player and a Blast Motion spokesperson, showed off his skills at Best Buy’s Life and Tech event.
I loved the many new sport wearables. At the Zepp booth I tried their small gadgets designed to fit on a player’s glove. I used the device and Jason Helman, Canadian PGA golf pro, gave me a few tips using the swing analysis provided by the Zepp app.
Elvis was also in attendance! Yes, one of the greatest Canadian figure skaters of all time, Elvis Stojko, was at the expo (I love him). He spoke eloquently on how Muse has been able to improve his athleticism. Because when the body is calm, it helps people stay focused. He says the body controls the mind, if you can control that, then you can control anything. Powerful.
In terms of entertainment, House of Marley was the darling of the entire event. Rohan Marley, director of House of Marley, spoke on how mixing music and technology can deliver more loving and positive messages. They pride themselves on fashion and purpose, which is why they use recycle materials for their products. I had a chance to test out the amazing Liberate XLBT speaker which sounded great—I also love the colour, blue hemp. House of Marley made an impression at Dundas Square, not only did they provide the tunes for the entire day, they brought the charming Patrick Patterson of the Raptors, and ended the night with the most amazing show by Ky-Mani Marley.
In keeping with showing how wearable tech can augment our reality, the Life and Tech event also included a Virtual Reality (VR) and Gesture Control products. These show just how much wearable tech is changing the world. Ken Price, VP of Carrier Sales and Marketing for Samsung Electronics, spoke about how the hardware for VR is here and the content is coming very soon, as it’s being heavily curated to work with oculus technology. Samsung showcased the Gear VR headset. Aymeric, an attendee who tried the Samsung VR, told me that he has a similar product but the “head tracking on the Samsung was immaculate.”
HTC also showed off their new VR technology. HTC took the phrase “go big or go home” literally and brought a semi-truck to the expo. Inside, I was able to immerse myself in another dimension that I’ve never experienced before. I wore the HTC vive headset and remote control, and before I know it, I was underwater swimming with beautiful fish; I even reached out to touch a gigantic whale. It felt real! If you are afraid of water, ask to skip this experience because it might intimidate you. Next, I played a cooking game where I was in a kitchen trying to make tomato soup. That was followed by fighting with robots but then trying to repair one. I’m sorry to say that I failed at saving the robot.
Last but not least, the event featured a wearable tech fashion show. Fashion designer Sunny Fong, creative director for VAWK, was commissioned by Best Buy to bring wearable tech to the runway. Fong was pleasantly surprised at the selection of wearable tech available; his personal favorite was Muse, which was modeled on the runway by Elvis Stojko. He also commented that manufacturers have done a great job utilizing form and fashion. For the most part, the fashion show presented the wearable gadgets as fashion accessories.
My final words: Before the #LifeAndFashion event, my knowledge of wearable tech was limited. But now I realize that there are many companies finding creative, innovative ways to produce positive change in our lives. The wearable tech expo showed wearable tech in a new light. Essentially, wearable tech has inspired me to achieve new goals such as embracing a committed meditation practice as well as having the confidence that my practice is done properly. In addition, I have the opportunity to analyze my golf swing on my next trip to the driving range or course. Far too many times that I’m on the golf course and I hit the ball far left and have no clue why. Now that wearable tech has advanced, it feels like I’m paying for a personal trainer in one small payment and I have them for life.
Here’s a selection of wearable tech recently reviewed on the Plugin Blog:
Many new gadgets.
One more Marley sign off: