Activity trackers are nice and all, but if a wearable device could automatically count calories, now that would be a game-changer for dieters everywhere.
Enter the GoBe, by Russian company Healbe. The GoBe not only measures your heart rate, blood pressure, and overall activity level, but also your stress levels, sleep status, hydration levels, and—if the company is to be believed—your all-important caloric intake.
Bob Marcantonio of Levin Consulting (one of Healbe’s PR firms) gave us the rundown on how the Healbe works.
The aforementioned functions are accomplished via judicious use of a piezoelectric pressure sensor, an accelerometer, and an impedance sensor. All this hardware, plus a data processor, does make the Healbe a little bulkier than other fitness monitors this year. It's a sleek but large wearable that will doubtlessly start conversations wherever you go.
Once you've created a user profile and downloaded the companion app, you can go about your day and the GoBe unobtrusively records body data, which you can then peruse on the companion app at your leisure. You'll just have to tap the GoBe to let it know when you're eating a meal or snack.
While we came armed with granola bars and a willingness to run around the company's CES booth, Marcantonio told us that test runs of the GoBe would not be possible.
"It’s not something you could use and get an accurate assessment immediately," he said. "Over a period of about three days, you’ll start realizing where your health information starts stabilizing." So trying it on for just a couple of minutes apparently wouldn't have given us much insight.
Marcantonio also walked us through the companion app, which syncs with the GoBe wrist unit every time it’s opened. There are five tabs....
The “My Energy Balance” tab calculates your net energy balance, based on caloric input (eating) and output (exercise). A positive value in kcal indicates that your food intake has surpassed the number of calories you’ve burned, and vice versa for negative kcal values. When you eat a meal, those calories are also broken down into the relative contributions from fat, protein, and carbohydrates to that total kcal value. For exercising, the approximate number of steps you’ve taken, as well as the distance you’ve traveled in that exercise, is also displayed.
“Current Hydration Level” is pretty self-explanatory. The wrist unit tracks your hydration level throughout the day, and even has alarms for when your hydration level is low.
“My Heart Rate” records—yes—your heart rate, but also contains information about your current and average blood pressure. Tapping the “Measurement” button instantly updates your heart metrics. A time series plot also maps out when your heart was at rest or pumping hard over the course of the day. It can also discern instances of bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate), arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms), and heart attacks.
“My Sleep” calculates the quality of your sleep on a scale from 0% to 100%. This number is based on the amount of time you slept, in addition to the proportion of your night spent in REM sleep.
“My Stress” rates your stress levels on a scale of five qualitative levels: “No Stress”, “Low Stress”, “Moderate Stress”, “High Stress”, and “Very High Stress”. A time series of the levels shows the moment your in-laws arrived at 7 PM, and the moment you stepped into the bubble bath at 9 PM.
For all of the tabs, your current and cumulative metrics for the day are displayed when your portable device is upright, but when you rotate the device, your raw data is plotted over time. You can view your data a week at a time, but to go further back you'll have to visit Healbe's online portal, where all of your data is preserved.
Battery life should be about a day, depending on how often syncing, the most battery intensive function, occurs.
Under the Hood
Healbe co-founders Stanislav Povolotsky and George Mikaberydze were also on hand to answer questions about the science behind the GoBe.
When we asked about the hotly debated passive glucose monitoring, the proprietary algorithm that allows the GoBe to calculate your caloric intake without a blood glucose sample, Povolotsky explained that the impedance sensor monitors changes in the water level of your cells. Those water levels are used to figure out both the total calorie count and the macronutrient profile (carbs vs. fats vs. proteins), based on the shape of the impedance curve.
So why no applications for the medical field? Diabetics the world over would be delighted by a blood glucose monitor that doesn't call for pricked fingers. Mikaberydze and Povolotsky indicated that the problem is two-fold.
The second problem is less bureaucratic, but no less daunting. Mikaberydze explains: "When diabetes happens, what suffers the most is the kidneys, and the kidneys [are responsible for] water flow. So since our technology is based on water flow, we need to conduct a lot of tests on different stages of diabetes." Blood glucose monitoring tests using the GoBe are being conducting in a hospital in St. Petersburg, but those tests are currently limited to healthy patients, rather than those who suffer from diabetes.
There are still plans to break into the medical market in America. “We have big US medical companies that are interested in the technology. They want to work in this direction further with us together. They know the market, they know the doors to the FDA,” Povolotsky said.
This is a multifaceted fitness tracking product with an intuitive and comprehensive companion app. As for the calorie counting, if it works, there are groundbreaking implications for the evolving world of fitness and wellness tracking, not to mention the broader medical field itself.
But our reviews are firmly grounded in science, and without the opportunity test the essential calorie tracking feature for ourselves, we'll have to withhold judgement until we can spend more serious time with the GoBe.