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April 7, 2018

Aura fitness band rewards hard work with virtual coins to buy new sneakers

by John_A

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Finding the motivation to continue wearing a fitness band is equally as challenging as going to the gym, out for a jog, or organizing that tennis game. Unless it’s worthwhile, and does something useful when it’s on your wrist, it’s in danger of becoming forgotten. The Aura Band, a fitness wearable currently on Kickstarter, aims to avoid being discarded by not only providing data the competition cannot, but also by offering desirable rewards when you hit your targets.

Reach goals, such as a daily step count, weight reduction, or muscle gain, and you’ll receive Aura Coins. Through partnerships set up by the company, you’ll be able to use these coins to purchase actual goods and services. If you’re committed enough, “three months of coins will be enough to get a new pair of sneakers,” Aura Devices CEO Stas Gorbunov told Digital Trends. In addition to sports brands, other partnerships we should expect include those with fitness centers and insurance companies. Gorbunov wants these promotions to be global, but some may end up tied to a particular region.

Bioimpedance

If the Aura Band was a regular fitness tracker that only cared about step count, issuing coins would solely be based on that metric. But the band features a bioimpedance sensor to assess body composition, from fat content, muscle mass, and hydration levels. Previously, to get this kind of data you’d need to visit a fitness center with the right equipment, a sports therapist, or a nutritionist. The Aura Band puts it on your wrist, and makes it available at all times. It works by tapping and holding the Aura’s metal body, creating an electrically charged loop that measures tissue resistance. We saw it operate on a prototype, but cannot comment on its effectiveness or the accuracy of the results just yet.

Gorbunov said its accuracy is about 90 percent at the moment, and the company is hoping to hit an accuracy rate of 95 percent when the Aura Band launches. This is compared to the 98 percent accuracy he estimated one would get with a professional-grade machine with more sensor points. Regardless, the data should still show changes in body composition, which will illustrate gains and loses. We’re also pleased to see hydration levels measured — an important part of our health that’s often forgotten, and is fairly hard to easily measure.

Hardware and software

The prototype Aura Band we saw had a metal body and a transparent center piece, but this will change to a full metal body for the final version. The strap was silicone and very flexible. A heart rate sensor was the only additional visual feature, and unless a stretch goal on Kickstarter is hit, the band will not have a vibration motor for notifications or alerts. It’s large for a fitness band that doesn’t have a display, and has a very sporty look with the silicone band. An optional leather band should calm that look down. However, the functionality means the Aura Band will largely appeal to serious fitness enthusiasts, and that’s certainly where Gorbunov initially expects to find fans.

Building up an enthusiastic community is important, as a system the company is calling Duels lets you challenge friends and keep up with their results. Interestingly, this ties in with Aura Coins too, as bets can be tied to goals and challenges. While this sounds great, don’t expect it to be available everywhere if it falls afoul of app store guidelines related to gambling. Aura Devices is aware of this, and we’re told challenges will run without Aura Coin bets in some regions.

The app was still a work in progress when we tried it, and not all features were operational. It will link with Apple Health, Google Fit, and other apps; plus other developers will be able to integrate support with their own apps in the future, and all data collected by the band can easily be downloaded should you wish to.

Second campaign

The Kickstarter campaign is already underway with a modest $40,000 goal, and it’s already well over half way to reaching this. It’s the second time the Aura Band has been featured on Kickstarter, with the first project canceled in February. Gorbunov said the first campaign closed due to poor explanation of the band’s features, and therefore never received attention. The improved campaign has a lower financial goal, and more interest.

A single Aura Band costs $100 and deliveries are expected to take place in September, according to Gorbunov. This is the Aura Devices team’s first hardware project, having only worked on unrelated software projects in the past, but Gorbunov is confident the team can hit the deadlines. Still, projects funded on Kickstarter are notorious for late deliveries and last minute crisis, so do remember this should you decide to back the Aura Band.


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