The Oura Ring

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I got the Oura Ring through Kickstarter earlier this year and have been wearing it daily since then. This has been one of the gadgets that has drawn the attention of friends, colleagues and strangers alike. The Oura Ring is primarily a sleep tracker with a variety of sensors to measure your activities and sleep 24×7. It connects to its app your phone through bluetooth for daily insights and analysis. In short, it functions just like the typical wrist worn fitness tracker with a focus on sleep tracking, but in a much smaller form factor which makes it more comfortable to wear all the time.

The ring is definitely a large one, and would not look out of place on Mogambo‘s fingers. That said, it doesn’t feel very heavy or uncomfortable to wear all the time if worn on the correct finger. The wife acceptance factor is also pretty low as I have found out over the last few months (I had to leave it behind during one of our family vacations), but it rarely fails to draw the attention of anyone seeing it for the first time.

The ring is not exactly symmetric and due to this, fits more comfortably on either the index & middle finger of your left hand or the ring & little finger of your right. There are also small protrusions on the inner bottom side of the ring for the heart rate and body temperature sensors, but they are imperceptible when worn.

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I got the glossy black version and it has resisted scratches quite admirably though it can attract fingerprints. The completely waterproof nature of the rings ensures that it gets a regular cleaning every time you wash your hands or take a bath, so hygiene is taken care of unlike some smartwatches with straps that can’t be wet.

The battery life of the ring has also been great, lasting 2-3 nights and worn all day long, depending primarily on how long I sleep. The ring charger is basically the case it came in with a micro-USB port for charging. When the battery reaches around 10-12%, the ring seems to stop recording any information. A full charge takes about an hour in this state.

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There have been quite a few firmware and app updates (about once a month) that have fixed bugs and tweaked how sensitive the ring is to activities. It also integrates with the Health app on iOS and sends the sleep data and resting heart rate every cycle.

The ring is pretty much passive in nature with no display or direct interaction mechanism. It instead uses the phone app to sends notifications like low battery or time to stand up. However, it does detect when it is worn and can accordingly activate its tracking. There are also ways to activate an airplane mode and reset it through the app.

Coming to its actual utility, I have found it to track my sleep quite well, though it is limited to one cycle a day. So, if you take a nap in the afternoon, it won’t show in the app, but it does track the info and seems to pass it on to the iOS Health app. For the sleep tracking, it detects the different phases of sleep – light, deep & REM – along with your resting heart rate and body temperature. It then gives a score to the sleep cycle and your overall readiness depending on a variety of factors, and provides a few suggestions for the day.

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The ring gradually learns your the range of your typical vitals and adapts its analysis accordingly. For example, one night I was coming down with a fever and it was able to detect the elevated body temperature and higher than usual body temperature to give a basic diagnosis the next morning.

I have found the ring to be quite useful to better understand my sleep patterns and the sources of disturbances in the cycle. There are however times when I have not been able to follow through on the suggestions given and at the end of the day a fitness tracker can only provide guidance but not enforcement for healthy habits.

There are also some areas of improvement for the ring – tracking multiple sleep cycles in a day for one and passing on the wealth of information it captures to the Health app for another. The latter area is especially one where the ring seems to be capturing a lot of data points, but not exposing them directly to the end user.

The Oura ring has turned out to be one of my most interesting backed projects on Kickstarter and it definitely is a precursor of things to come in the wearables and IoT space beyond today’s wrist worn devices. A hat tip to the Four short links post that led me to Oura.

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Bookniture: First impressions

Bookniture was one of the more interesting non-electronic Kickstarter projects that I’ve ever backed. The concept is pretty simple but innovative – a small piece of furniture made of special paper that can be folded away like a book.

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I finally received the piece today and it is a very interesting item as expected. In terms of weight, it is about as heavy as a MacBook Air or your typical Ultrabook, and the piece feels really sturdy once setup. You just open and close it like a book and there’s a felt top to give you a flat surface on top. It supposedly supports a ton of weight too, so you can sit on it without any worries.

As an origami enthusiast, it is quite nice to see something as innovative as this. There are a few kinks to the piece though. First is that the folds do not open out uniformly, and this is to be expected given the modus operandi. Still, it does give a sort of non-symmetric look. Secondly, the felt top could have used a bit of a smoother finish for the edges.

That said, both are minor complaints and the whole piece feels quite nice to open and use. In fact, I’m typing this out with my laptop perched on top of my Bookniture at this very moment. Check out the gallery below for images and if you want to get one for yourself, just head over to their site.

Pebble Time: In hand and First impressions

I was one of the late backers of the Pebble Time smartwatch, and finally received it today. I backed it after the Apple watch event in early March and deciding that the first gen Apple watch was a bit too expensive for me. I also got lucky with the Pebble Kickstarter campaign and managed to switch my initial pledge of $169 to the early bird $159 when people had started backing out towards the end of the campaign.

The shipment was delayed by nearly a month, but that’s not too bad by Kickstarter standards, and as I had opted for the expedited option with prepaid duties and taxes, I received my package within a week of dispatch. I did have to stay in regular touch with the DHL support, first for the KYC documents and then for the description letter to the customs team. There was also the currency goofup on the invoice with labels in EUR though the payments had been in USD. This was something many of the Indian backers who received their packages before me had observed on the campaign portal. Fortunately for me, the DHL team seems to have managed to sort out these issues with the customs to ensure that I received the package just a day later than their estimate.

Anyway, coming to the Pebble Time, it is definitely quite lightweight and pretty comfortable to wear. The silicone strap seems quite comfortable as well and the material feels just like those silicone cupcake moulds and other similar kitchen accessories that one sees in stores. As for the display, it is fairly colourful, but a bit dim even with the backlight as many reviewers and users have observed. It is especially problematic in the current monsoon season with cloudy skies most of the time. That said, I’m sure app and watchface developers will start optimizing their products for the display in the coming months to improve readability. The double bezel is also on the thicker side by modern gadget standards, but haven’t found it to be very distracting so far. As for the coating on the steel frame, I suspect Pebble might be facing the same durability challenges as Apple did with the iPhone 5 black version, given the scratch reports from early users.

I opted to pair the Pebble Time with my iPhone 5s instead of the Mi 4, and loaded a bunch of apps and watchfaces on it including the PebbUp watchfaces that I’d backed on Kickstarter. The notifications have been trickling in since the pairing as well and the vibration is fairly gentle. I’d already done some notification management on my iPhone, so haven’t been getting flooded thus far, and even cricket scores are showing up thanks to the ESPNCricinfo app alerts.

I also did a full charge of the Pebble while installing the apps though it was well over 60% when I got it. It charged up pretty quick even from a laptop USB port. Also, no faulty cable.

Some of the other things I’d like to test in the coming weeks are Android support and voice replies, fitness tracking (already installed some apps), usage at work (currently working from home with a broken arm) and of course the battery life. In the meantime, checkout the unboxing and initial setup photos below.

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