Yesterday at CES I checked out some guy’s butt. Well more accurately, it was his lower quads, inner quads, hamstrings and glutes and it was all in an app that shows how active these muscle were while performing exercises. The app is for ATHOS, the wearable company offering smart shirts and shorts, which have built-in sensors that measure your heart rate, breathing and muscle effort.
Smart clothing is an emerging category of fitness wearables currently being dominated by two Montreal companies, OMSignal and Hexoskin. But where these companies focus on heart rate and breathing, ATHOS is the first consumer wearable company that has incorporated EMG (electromyography) sensors in its clothing to measure how much your muscles are working during a workout. With EMG, ATHOS can detect things like muscle effort, muscle target zones and muscle fatigue.
I met up with ATHOS at CES this week to get a first look at the smart wear that has started shipping to pre-order customers at the beginning of this month. ATHOS is offering smart clothes for both men and women. The shorts I saw in person could have been mistaken for something you would see at Nike or lululemon in both design and quality — exactly what ATHOS is aiming for. In talking with Director of Brand Strategy, Jake Waxenberg, it was clear that ATHOS intends to go head-to-head with the likes of Nike and Under Armour and the like by coming out with a line of athletic clothing using sensors as the company’s distinct advantage.
“We want to be the next great sports apparel brand,” Waxenberg told us. “We think we have a real shot at doing that, not just because of what our technology provides but because it’s such a differentiator. Under Armour launched with synthetic fabrics as a differentiator, Nike launched on a new type of running show where they poured rubber in the sole which launched their brand and adidas way back put cleats on shoes to launch their brand so we think we have a real shot to do that with software”.
ATHOS’ sensors are built directly into the fabric. The only place you actually get a glimpse of the fact that there is technology inside is if you turn the clothing inside out. The compression clothing contours to your body and can be thrown in the wash and dryer like your regular fitness gear. It features sweat wicking to keep you cool and dry, flat seam construction to avoid chafing and has four-way stretch to ensure you have a wide range of motion.
On the leg of the shorts and the arm of the shirts is a pocket where the ATHOS Core sits. The Core is essentially the brain of the system and it is where all of the sensor data is collected and then sent to a mobile device via Bluetooth. The Core gets about 10 hours of continuous battery life and locks into the pouch securely. The Core works with any piece of clothing in the ATHOS collection.
Waxenberg was wearing a pair of ATHOS shorts under his jeans to show me the device in action. With the iOS app open, I saw his lower body muscles light up on an anatomically-correct body drawing. His muscles started glowing in real-time with shades of yellow and blue at first leading into oranges and reds when he exerted more effort while doing squats. The app also showed his heart rate (bpm) and active time and would have showed breathing metrics if he had an ATHOS shirt on.
After each set the app reported muscle effort, and the balance of effort for each of the major muscle groups active during the exercise. ATHOS shows muscle activity as a percentage and the threshold you need to reach differs depending on your fitness goal. Being able to see what muscle groups you tend to use the most during an exercise as well as how balanced that muscle is when active are the types of actionable insights ATHOS provides to help you work out harder and smarter at the gym.
Like other fitness apps, ATHOS shows your progress over time. Users are able to log the type of exercise they were doing using hashtags and ATHOS attributes the total workout with a point score to make it easier to see which workout was better than others.
The ATHOS app is only available in iOS which means that Android users are out of luck for a bit. Waxenberg did say that they have Android on the roadmap but there is no date set for release. Shirts and shorts can be ordered for $99 USD and the Core, which only needs to be purchased one time, will cost you $199. ATHOS is shipping now but you might have to wait a bit if you order as they are currently focusing on getting units out to those already in the queue.