Bioconnected’s headphones want to take Australian sports science to the world

Alex Kidman 3 October 2017 NEWS

BCHR2_738

Bioconnected's HR+ headphones were built with a fitness-leading focus.

Australians love technological fitness gadgets, but according to homegrown fitness scientists, we're getting some dud data from our existing obsession with fitness bands, watches and chest straps delivering data that's not as useful as it could be in changing our growing obesity statistics. Indeed, while we've got a reputation as a land of sun-drenched, muscle-laden idols, the reality is rather more rotund than that.

That's the issue that led Bioconnected, an Australian-based startup, to today launching its first wearable product, the Bioconnected HR+ headphones. They're fitness-tracking headphones that, like so many competitors, connect via Bluetooth and track your progress via a game-based app.

Where Bioconnected's headphones differ is in their tracking methodology and the level of fitness data they present.

Rather than using a wrist-based wearable, which Bioconnected's Dr Sven Rees reckons delivers poor quality data due to the inadvertent noise introduced into any tracking whenever you move your wrist around, the HR+ headphones instead track heart rate through your ears, reducing interference characteristics markedly.

While heart rate sensing in the ear isn't entirely new technology – you can find it in products such as the Jabra Elite Sport headphones – Bioconnected's claim is that the headphones' ability to track heart rate variability, a key component of overall heart tracking health is unique to the new headphones. In a healthy heart, there should be quite marked differences between heartbeats, with low variability a key indicator of heart health issues.

While Bioconnected runs its own app that includes social data sharing and a "ghost runner" that challenges you to beat your previous workout, its heart rate tracking uses open source Bluetooth protocols that means it should work with most popular workout apps, including RunKeeper and Strava. Bioconnected's own sports app runs on iOS and tracks multiple parameters of training, including the ability to get spoken word encouragement based on previous training profiles.

The Bioconnected HR+ headphones come with three custom gel buds for best fit, along with "shark fin" stabilisers that lock the headphones into your ears. The added benefit of a secure fit for these buds is that they also provide a level of noise isolation, although they're not strictly speaking noise cancelling headphones. Battery life is rated at seven hours, and that's for full fitness monitoring and music playback. Bioconnected's claim is that if you only used them for audio, or just for heart rate tracking, you could expect to get much greater battery life.

HR3_738

The headphones themselves are IPX5 rated, which means you can sweat into them as much as you like, as well as get them accidentally wet, without having to stress about their durability.

They're not rated for swimming however, but then Bluetooth doesn't work particularly well in immersed situations anyway. Bioconnected's Ian Bell told finder.com.au that they are working on swimming-based wearables, most likely via a tethered audio connection for later release. The company's plan is to shift into broader based wellness and pre-medical devices by 2020, with the HR+ headphones merely the first product in a wider roadmap. "What we want to do is take the archetypical Australian lifestyle and broadcast that to the world," said Bell.

The Bioconnected HR+ headphones are available on pre-sale through Bioconnected's web site for $279, with the regular price set to be $299 once they're available in market from 1 November 2017.

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