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Sports tech and its promotion to the CES big leagueDate Posted: 18 December, 2018
You don’t have to be a serious athlete to know that sports tech has been a fairly big deal at CES in recent years. With more than 4.9k net square feet of exhibition space dedicated to the sector for the 2019 show, CES has proven to be an ideal launchpad helping propel sports tech into the big league.
Kickstarted by early breakthroughs such as fitness trackers, sports tech in general has successfully navigated its way from a niche investment for fitness buffs to something almost all of us can involve in our daily life. Sports weareables have led the way, with the overall market growing by 10.3% in 2017 driven by brands such as Apple, Fitbit and Garmin. To think of sports tech as little more than the bands you slap on your wrist however would be a mistake, with the likes of VR and AR entering the sports tech arena.
But what are the products that have really stood out in Vegas? CES is nothing, after all, without its launches. For our highlights from the show that have got us hot under the collar, have a stroll through our favourite recent launches and themes below.
Taking performance to the next step
CES sports tech launches may be littered with the next-gen, however there’s also a serious focus on aiding your everyday activity. Often it is designed so your average Parkrun attendee can track their progress and help them improve step by step.
For those with a little cash to burn, the Peloton Tread, launched at CES 2018, is a treadmill with a difference. Complete with a 32-inch HD touchscreen used to watch live instructors from New York, the Tread means you can take part in classes ranging from circuit training to hiking from your own front room. It doesn’t come cheap, though does mean you don’t have to leave the house. Silver linings and all that.
If running isn’t your thing, then the Spire Smart Swimsuit might have been more up your stream. A full swimsuit, it includes a tracker that’s bonded to the inside of the clothing. Automatically tracking lengths in the pool, it doesn’t need charging and links to Swim.com via a smartphone. A nifty bit of kit to help you get that breast stroke really pumping.
We’ve mentioned the Black Box VR in our post on CES gaming launches, though it’s worth bringing it in again here. Winner of the Best Startup Award at CES 2018, Black Box VR is a virtual reality gym. Using the HTC Vive, motion-tracking controllers and special workout equipment, it gets the blood pumping via a series of games and challenges. If you want to stay a little more traditional you can choose to work out with a virtual partner, though we love the idea of getting our sweat on to some VR fun. And, once again, all without leaving the house.
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Wearables. Are. Everywhere
If there’s one recent development in sports tech that has really improved its appeal, it’s the fact that it is becoming more and more convenient. And what’s more convenient than being able to either stick something in your ear or on your wrist and let it get to work?
One of the big winners from CES 2018, winning plaudits from the likes of Wareable, TechRadar and Stuff, was the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music. Anything launched by Garmin is going to get a fair bit of attention, though as the brand’s first watch with music support, it managed to steal a bigger chunk of the limelight than expected. Features carried over from previous models, such as Garmin Pay support and basic stats such as step count and calories burned, also meant it’s as useful for your serious runner as your average Joe.
Launches by brands such as Garmin and Fitbit may lead the pack, though CES has also hosted a wide range of other key wearable sports tech launches. Misfit is one such brand that has used the show to promote its own range of smartwatches and fitness bands that won’t make you wary about actually wearing them in public. The Misfit Path, which showed its face first at 2018’s show, was the smallest hybrid watch the company had made and combined smartwatch capabilities with a flash design that looked typically, well, Misfit.
Another of the winners of Stuff’s Wearable Tech Awards from CES 2018 was the Jabra Elite 65T sports headphones. A solid battery life of five hours and two full charges from its recharging case, the headphones also sported (sorry) Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri integration. Meaning that you can stay totally connected even on your morning run.
Harnessing tech in new ways
At the end of the day, the whole point of CES is to introduce new and exciting tech we can use in our day to day. As an industry that’s constantly evolving as its users adapt, CES sports tech launches are right there at the front of it all. Forbes neatly sums up this evolution and variation in its own recap of 2018’s show, stating how: “ESPN is now using video in their first down markers, AI is being integrated into drone races to boost performance, and golf clubs are now equipped with a technology that helps improve your swing”.
One company that has really benefitted from the exposure CES sports tech launches get is AfterShokz. Sticking bone conduction technology in its range of headphones to make them safer for runners and cyclists in particular, CES has proven the perfect stomping ground for showcasing its cutting-edge tech.
As Tyler Chen, international marketing manager at AfterShokz, explains: “CES is like no other trade show in terms of size and the vast range of brands and consumers that attend. From enthusiasts to more casual attendees, the swathes of people coming to the show every year with an appetite for exciting tech has made it a particularly important event for AfterShokz, and has helped us really promote the brand as a leader in the industry”.
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This is part of our series of content looking at CES and its innovations over the years. Check out our first article on the smart home here, our second looking at all things gaming here, and finally our video with The Tech Chap on influencers at CES here.