More outdoor gear tech from CES 2012

To quickly summarize, 2012 will be the year we share the outdoor experience. I even saw a bathroom scale that will wirelessly share your weight with its included app. “Siri, am I fat?”

GoBandit LIVE action camera
GoPro is by no means the only wearable action camera on the market. Well, it never really was the only wearable action cam but it’s certainly the most prevalent. (Hats, er, helmets off to their marketing department.) The GoBandit cam offers a live link to your smartphone in full 1080 HD and has an embedded GPS to allow for live measurements of your speed, route and altitude. It’s a very cool looking camera and comes with a couple of mounts. Of course, you can upload and share your ride/wave/climb/jump/fall/spill/yard sale data. If you visit this site before 2/25, you can register for an early adopter discount, which you’ll want to do because they guy I talked to used numbers that were not real appealing, which reminded me of the stellar job the GoPro marketing department is doing.

UWater Action Gear by Fitness Technologies, Inc.
So I guess these guys have been around a while; where, I don’t know. Underwater I suppose, because that’s their primary focus: 100% waterproof electronics. They market a lot of slick, scuba-ready accessories, like flashlights, an FM radio, MP3 player with Bluetooth headset and dive lights. I really like the UWater Full HD Action Cam. (This is in part because I don’t scuba dive and thus, have no real interest in soundtracking Delbert McClinton to a reef dive.) UWater’s action cam looks like a bullet. It’s small, easy to mount and feels quite solid, as if it could actually take the abuse these in-action cameras are often subject to. It will accept a Micro SD card of any capacity and also has a patent-pending battery extension that will provide up to 8 hours of run time. It adds about another two-inches or so to the camera. I think this is a very cool product.

iBike Dash
The only road biking I do is on a single speed over to Fresh & Easy or to the gym, so I don’t have a lot of need for an iPhone- (or iPod touch) connected bike computer. But that doesn’t mean that the iBike Dash isn’t slick as hell. So you download the app to either device and then insert it into the iBike “smart case,” which then attaches to your ride. From what I saw, the app is really comprehensive and has a very attractive touch screen interface. You can monitor speed and distance over a live GPS map, get averages, time and also take calls while the Dash continues to record your data. That’s cool. And it’s water tight. You can get either the iBike Coach App for training purposes or the standard iBike App for general riding and fitness.

AfterShokz headphones
I’m not a fan of headphones in the outdoors. I see them used a lot though, in mountain biking and snowboarding, especially. For me, it’s a safety issue. I don’t run with them because I feel music is a distraction, it doesn’t allow you to listen to your breathing, focus on your pace or stay mentally balanced. Yeah, I’m kind of a tool that way. I apologize for the digression; point is, a lot of people like to listen to music in their outdoor pursuits. If I had to, I would use these AfterShokz headphones because they do not “go in, on or cover your ears.” Powered by what the parent company, VoxTech, calls bone conduction technology, which has something to do with military special ops and bypassing the ear canal by sending the soundwaves through adjacent bones. What I like about this concept is that it allows you hear what’s going on around you in the outdoors, which is ideal for safety along the slopes, trails and suburban sidewalks. It also protects the eardrum. Hell, I may have just convinced myself to pick up a set. They also have AfterShokz Game for, yes, gamers, and AfterShokz Mobile for cell phones, each with an in-line mic. The sport version is $59.99 and the other two are $69.99. Nice.



Z Board weight sensing skateboard rolls into CES

I was lucky enough to be a non-industry type at the Consumer Electronics Show this week here in Vegas. I have a client that is about to make a splash in home networking and I was there to assist in their outreach efforts. I was also able to mingle around the place and check out all the new products in outdoor and fitness tech.

Without doubt, the biggest trend I noticed in outdoor gear and gadgetry has to do with capturing and sharing the outdoor experience. GoPro is no longer alone in this world.

My favorite stop was the Z Board booth. Actually, it wasn’t even a booth yet, as the company’s founders, Geoff Larson and Ben Forman, were just arriving and scrambling to assemble their display. Of course, it was the first hour of the weeklong show, so I have to give these guys credit for taking the time to talk to me about their electric, weight-sensing skateboard. 

In a word, this thing is super freaking cool. And yes, it’s exactly that, a skateboard that moves forward, or stops, when you step on the padded sensors in its nose or tail, each positioned smartly between the truck screws. No handheld triggers or cables, just your feet, just like a real board.

Z Board runs on a rechargeable battery pack stationed under the center of a 40” deck, which does make it quite heavy, coming in around 36 lbs. for the standard and 30 lbs. for the Z Board Pro. Despite the weight, the board carves surprisingly well, even on the dense convention center carpet. It is also fast, able to hit up to 17 mph. The sensor technology is savvy enough to be very easy to control, you won’t jerk to start or stop, everything is gradual. I would have loved to have had the chance to cruise this thing on the smooth sidewalks of the Strip.

It is paired with some seriously burly trucks and wheels that make it look at first glance like some sort of all-terrain board. Larson and Forman told me that’s so it can roll over rough patches on sidewalks without disrupting the ride, whereas on a traditional longboard you may be preparing yourself for a header.

There shouldn’t be any backlash over Z Board from the skater community. As battery technology evolves and these guys continue to improve their design, as all good engineers do, Z Board could very well become what everyone thought the Segway would be. No one is taking away anyone’s right to kick or carve on human power, and every outdoor pursuit is subject to advances in thinking. In my opinion, Z Board could be the best thing skateboarding has seen, well, since the Z Boys.


“Windfall” documentary suggests wind energy isn’t all that’s promised

There’s a tough line to be toed with this subject but it’s handled quite succinctly by a woman who lives under a collection of wind turbines in upstate New York. “We’re not against alternate forms of energy, we’re against these monstrosities.”

“Windfall” is about the dark side of green energy told from the perspective of a small town in New York, only a couple of hours from where I lived until I was 22. I have close friends who live just out of reach from the shadows of the whirling giants central to this tale of environmental controversy.

This is not a story that hasn’t been told before. The drawbacks to wind energy are much talked about and the debate usually apexes at the uneasiness caused by giant, omnipresent spinning machines. This doc suggests that the detrimental byproducts of wind energy are more than spoiled skylines.

Movies like this are important. We need to know as much as we can about every source of energy we seek to adopt or else run the massive risk of once again putting all the eggs of our future environmental preservation strategies into one large, toxic basket.