Of the many fitness trackers we’ve seen on crowdfunding sites such as the Misfit Shine, and …FitBark, none have offered concrete health benefits beyond the general data logging that gives you some idea of how active you’ve been and if it’s okay to get the Value Size fries.
In addition to fitness and performance tracking, the new “Angel” project plans to actually save lives.
The promotional video for the Angel sensor is pretty silly. While thin on the details of what the product is and how it works, it has no short supply of flashy computer animated visuals and computerey sound effects.
Watching it, I got a vibe that sat somewhere between standing in line for a ride at EPCOT, watching one of those daytime infomercials for some kind of holistic wristband, and peering over the shoulder of a “hacker” on CSI. What do these three things have in common? They’re all fantasy.
Just look at this frame!
What are we even looking at here? Neurons? DNA? Is the Angel wristband going to fix my DNA? If so, I know there are a number of folks with Chron’s Disease who should be first in line.
What’s actually happening here is the substitution of fancy computer graphics for actual information. The hope is that their ability to produce an incredibly impressive video will somehow add legitimacy to their claims.
I’ll be honest, I fell for it a bit. There are plenty of crowd funding campaigns with well produced videos, but nothing on this scale. The sheer number of custom computer animations in this video is substantial, and for a while, I was thinking that they had to be seriously funded. After all, they’re not only raising money on Indiegogo. After a little sleuthing though, I realized that the clips weren’t actually custom.
About 90% of the shots in the video and photos on their site are from stock footage. Don’t believe me?
- Guy running in slow motion
- Computer man running in slow motion
- Sick girl with cup
- Montage of computerey stuff
- Casual young business man with hispanic coworkers in background
- Medical science touchscreen graphic technology accessed by female Asian doctor in modern medical facility (who is way to happy to hear about Mr. Leonard’s blood pressure being too high)
- App icons fly out of laptop screen
- Girl with Apple
As it turns out, making a fancy video like this just takes a credit card and a copy of iMovie. Despite the cost-saving measures over using custom graphics, I am still rather surprised that they paid $79 for a three second clip of a girl with a cup.
So am I complaining that they used B-roll? Not really. People use it all the time, that’s why there are sites like Shutterstock that supply B-roll for videos like this. What does upset me is that they spent valuable video time where they could have been talking about their product and instead filled it with generic graphics. If they didn’t have so much filler, it might have been a little more obvious how little they really had to say.
Even when they do show real information, they can’t help but spruce it up a bit:
Wow! They neglected to label their axes and plots or even title their graph, but they had plenty of time to find a generic stock photograph to decorate the background. A pretty popular one at that:
There is also a prodigious use of scare-tactics in the video. They keep using the term “heart attack detector”, and their original promotional video would have you believe that you could drop dead at any moment:
Even Mr. Jorov, the co-founder, once suffered a “sudden and fatal” heart attack, though I have it on authority that it probably wasn’t as fatal as he described in the video.
There is already a number of health monitoring devices on the market that can monitor the heart and jump into action when there’s a problem. They’re called pacemakers. They cost thousands of dollars, are based on decades of research, and are prescribed and installed by medical professionals. If you are really concerned about your health, see a doctor. Don’t spend $130 on a wrist band.
So what is this thing? Apparently it’s a flexible wrist-mounted device not unlike a Nike Fuelband or FitBit Flex. In addition to the typical accelerometer-based movement tracking, it lists some other fancy features:
The bottom two claims here are actually pretty reasonable. There are dozens of fitness trackers out there measuring acceleration, and temperature sensors are pretty cheap and use little power.
The top two are a little more troublesome.
A number of wrist-mounted optical heart rate monitors have already hit the market. The Mio Alpha, a fellow crowd-funded device, is a wrist-mounted heart rate monitor that uses a collection of LEDs and sensors to determine the wearer’s heart rate. In order for this device to retrieve good results, it needs to be worn very snugly on the user’s wrist, “one to two notches tighter than you would wear a normal watch” according to one reviewer.
The reasoning behind this is two-fold. An optical heart rate monitor works by transmitting light through a few layers of skin where it reflects off of blood in the user’s veins and returns to a sensor located near the LEDs. The amount of light returned to this sensor is very small, so it’s critical to keep out any additional light that will disrupt the signal. Wearing the band tightly prevents outside light from interfering and keeps the light coming from the LEDs from reflecting off the outer layer of skin and directly into the sensor.
So my biggest question is how are these guys doing optical pulse measurements from a device that’s supposed to fit loosely around the wrist? Competing devices need to be cinched down a few extra notches while this thing doesn’t even have any notches!
They cover this in some of their comments:
Would have been nice to talk about that in your project description. How about a picture of the “micro-adjustable clasps”? A description?
Another detail that’s a little bit fuzzy is the battery life. The project description says 1 week, but a project update says it could be as low as “a few hours” depending on which sensors are being used (a little short for a device that’s supposed to do continuous “heart attack detection”). No problem, you can charge the battery easily using the included…actually wait. How do you charge the battery?
So…they’re collecting $100,000 for a product that has all of these amazing features, and yet they still haven’t figured out how they’re going to charge it yet? Are the pictures they’ve shown really all they’ve completed so far?
Seems like they have a long way to go.
Can they do it?
This one is really hard to say. Nowhere do they show a form-factor prototype of this thing, and what few images they do show of real circuit boards are far away from the final form factor they’re advertising. They’re also making a lot of implications that they haven’t yet settled on major design decisions such as battery life and charging method.
On the other hand, the people behind this project seem pretty legitimate. Some Googling around indicates that they’re all real people and they all have some real world experience in the industry. Strangely, the Angel website only lists Eugene under “team”.
Not sure why the rest of the team got the shaft there. I’m told by a tipster that there used to be more names on the page, but I have no way of confirming that.
So okay, despite the flowery marketing and outrageous claims, maybe this ragtag think tank of brainiacs can make a product that lives up to some of these claims and ships on time. Oh wait a second…
So the eight of them want to take a small form factor flexible battery powered (maybe) waterproof (maybe) wirelessly charged wristband with sensor technology not yet available in any competing device on the market from a few hand-made development PCBs to a full form factor device ready for mass production with a $135 price tag in six months for $100,000?
Suddenly, the legalese on their website makes a lot more sense
Okay, maybe not a whole lot of sense…