Athos: Computers should be in your workout wear, not just your pockets

Designed by electrical engineers, the vision behind the Athos gear is to turn the clothes we wear into personal trainers.

This workout gear from Athos is designed to track muscle activity, heart rate, balance, cadence, and more. Athos

Most of us have a vision in our heads of the ideal version of ourselves -- fit, smart, sexy, and, if we're honest, probably air-brushed. The company Athos wants to help you feel like you are working toward achieving at least the first part of that vision with workout gear that, thanks to embedded muscle-tracking sensors, can monitor many aspects of your workout with extreme -- and yes, expensive -- precision.

The shirt and pants will each set you back $99. Athos

Now available for preorder with a target ship date of summer 2014, the sensorized tops and bottoms that range in size from extra small to extra large are $99 each; the Core wearable module, which gathers the data and shoots it wirelessly to the smartphone app, will set you back $199.

But co-founders Dhananja Jayalath and Christopher Wiebe are banking on this being an affordable alternative to the personal trainer, who is ultimately a data collector as well. Personal trainers are "not just being prescriptive," Jayalath recently told Wired. "They look at what you're doing."

For Jayalath and Wiebe, it was a no-brainer to track muscle activity using electromyography (EMG), which isn't exactly new tech but is typically found in the confines of doctors' offices, physical therapy rooms, and the playgrounds of elite athletes. Here, the task was not only to get the tech into wearable form, but to design attractive -- and washable -- workout attire in which to house the sensors. The Athos co-founders, both electrical engineers who went to the University of Waterloo in Canada, were later joined by Joel Seligstein of Facebook to build the app.

The initial batch includes stretchy long-sleeve shirts and pants that, via an array of EMG sensors, monitor muscle activity across 22 muscle groups. The Core, the little red egg-like device shown above, can be inserted into specific pockets to gather and dissect all that data and send it to the connected app.

But, contrary to fitness trackers that live on wrists, the clothing has so many data points that the Core knows not only your heart and breath rate but which muscle groups you are using and how -- and not just as a means of measuring whether you need to push harder or ease up, but to help track balance, cadence, and form.

"We think clothing will get smarter, and fitness is a good place to start," Jayalath says. "So that you're not changing all of your wardrobe, just your workout clothes, which is already in the $60 range for most people." He add that just a few years down the road we may see smart clothes not only to improve someone's workout or activity level, but to help tackle things like posture, stress, and other specific medical conditions.

While at least initially the Athos clothing may prove too pricey for those currently shelling out $100 for, say, the Fitbit activity and sleep tracker, it seems inevitable that the level of precision afforded via full-body monitoring will ultimately give wrist monitors a run for their money. Who knows, someday even our business suits and cozy pajamas may follow suit.

 

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