The New Generation of Trackers Designed to Quantify Your Wellbeing

Gadgets that go way beyond simply counting steps and measuring kilograms.

Article by Geoff Quattromani

Nest HubPhotography courtesy Google.

After the hibernation of the past two years, many have emerged with ambitious health goals and renewed determination.Of course, wellbeing depends on much more than the number on the bathroom scales. Fortunately wellness technology has evolved to the point that almost anything can be measured and tracked, providing useful insights and the motivation to make positive changes. T Australia puts five trackers to the test.

Fitbit Sense
Photography courtesy Fitbit.

Get wearable insights

What started as simple step-counting devices have evolved into medical-grade trackers. A new-generation smartwatch will not only encourage you to be more active, it will also help you understand when you should focus on recovery. The Fitbit Sense provides tools to help you manage stress and will send a notification if it records an unusual heart rate, plus it continually monitors oxygen saturation, skin temperature and sleep quality. Used effectively, it will transform how you go about your day. $449.95,

Upright Go
Photography courtesy Upright.

Reverse the slouch

Too much time spent in unergonomic chairs leads to a deterioration of our posture. For those looking to restore their stature, a small gadget called the Upright Go might be the fix. Designed to sit between the shoulders, this Bluetooth device can be either stuck onto the skin or worn on a necklace (sold separately). It will vibrate whenever you slouch and you’ll receive daily reports so you can gauge your improvement over time. From $79.95,

Withings Body Cardio
Photography courtesy Withings.

Upgrade your scales

If your scales still have a dial and a big red needle, it’s time to rethink. Smart scales allow you to focus on important metrics and can inform conversations you might have with your doctor. The Body Cardio from Withings provides a full-body assessment, displaying your heart health, body fat, water content and muscle and bone mass with trend data, plus it synchronises with your smartphone via a custom app. The scales can be used by up to eight people and they will automatically identify each person. $249,

Hidrate Spark
Photography courtesy Apple.

Drink more water

We’re all guilty of letting ourselves get dehydrated, often because we’re too busy to remember to drink. When it’s time to take a sip, the smart bottle HidrateSpark Pro will glow at the base and can even send you a phone notification. Connecting to your phone via Bluetooth, it understands your activities and habits, and it will push you to hit your hydration goals each day. The bottle comes in three sizes and keeps water cold for up to 24 hours, making it handy for hiking and warm weather. $99.95,

Nest Hub
Photography courtesy Google.

Sort out your sleep

Tracking sleep quality normally requires a wearable. The Nest Hub (2nd gen) by Google, however, is a bedside smart display that uses motion and sound to analyse sleep, yielding insights about coughing, snoring and your respiratory rate. When it’s time to rise and shine, the Nest Hub can use gentle screen illumination and a gradually increasing sound to ensure you wake up feeling refreshed. It will follow up with a weather report, trigger your curtains to open and cue your favourite playlist, before sending you a reminder about your first meeting of the day. $149,

Nikon’s Digital Influencers

With the new Z Fc, Nikon looks back to move forward, delivering a simple mirrorless camera with filters for the ’gram and connectivity.

Article by Mark Gambino

Nikon CameraA fresh take on Nikon’s iconic F series, the new Z Fc compact digital camera comes in bright shades and more muted tones. Courtesy Of Nikon.

The world of photography changed in April 1959 when the Japanese camera manufacturer Nikon released its now-famous Nikon F Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. This device was the result of decades of developments in camera technology and tied design elements from previous models into one complete package.

It’s no surprise the Nikon F soon became a favourite of news and conflict photographers, not to mention astronauts. It was a compact precision instrument that could be used with a variety of lenses. Before long, the Nikon F moved into the general populace and was seen around the necks of amateurs and professionals alike. Now, some 104 years since the company’s founding, Nikon has released a digital camera that recalls the past while simultaneously embracing cutting-edge technology: the new Nikon Z Fc.

Look and Feel

The first thing that hits you when you pick up the Z Fc is the classic styling. Nikon is leaning into its heritage here, the Z Fc reminiscent of the company’s original F series camera (with the added pop of seven body colour options, extending to Mint Green and Coral Pink). While retro design is always en vogue, the Z Fc feels like a nice balance of form and function, and a simpler version of Nikon’s previous foray into “old-school” digital cameras, 2013’s Df.

The controls are familiar and comprehensive. Mechanical dials control ISO (sensitivity to light), exposure compensation and shutter speed, with flick switches to manage shooting modes and power. Naturally, the film advance lever and winder are absent, but you will find buttons for viewing and deleting images, along with additional command dials, various back buttons and a multi-selector button to dive into menus for more features.

The only aspect that feels a little lacking is the build. While the camera has a magnesium alloy frame, seen at the top, the remainder of the body is finished in plastic. It’s not what you’d expect from a camera with a starting price of $1,449 (body only; kit prices start at $1,649; That said, once the camera is slung around your neck, the mixed materials make it light enough to wear for hours without strain.

Function and Features

Many manufacturers boast their latest models are easy to use, but only about half of them deliver on that promise. Nikon’s Z Fc is among the latter. Yes, there’s a lens cap to remove, but flicking the power switch and depressing the shutter button is done in a heartbeat. The power of Nikon’s auto focus is the real hero here, enabling you to shoot quickly while moving the camera from hip to eye.

With the selector mode in Auto, the camera will take care of ISO, f-stop and shutter speed. Flick the switch and you have control over these aspects, either individually or completely (once you move onto full manual control). For many seasoned SLR users, this is the heart of creativity, and it’s something Nikon has acknowledged in the camera’s control layout, design and features.

For portraits and selfies, auto eye-detection AF helps ensure your images are sharp and focused on your subject. Swing out the LCD screen and you can master any selfie or shoot vlogs in 4K video. Of interest are the style and connectivity features Nikon has included in the Z Fc. A variety of picture styles lets you shoot stills as if through an Instagram filter, then you can swiftly upload them to any device and share with your masses of fans.

Optics and Images

The Z Fc features a Z-mount for Nikkor lenses, making it compatible with more than 20 lenses (more if you add an FTZ adaptor). As with any manufacturer, the more affordable lenses have their quirks — such as distortion or soft corners — but climb the ladder of expense and the images that this camera can produce are impressive. While the kit lenses that come with the Z Fc might not win any awards, the image quality from both the lens sensor and camera sensor is notable. Of course, the camera’s image processor — using the newest Expeed chip — does a lot of the heavy lifting here. Considering Nikon is known for making camera systems that balance glass, sensor and processor well, it’s to be expected that the results are pretty good.

That said, the 20.9-megapixel sensor performs well up to 1600 ISO; however, jumping to 3200 and beyond, noise and artifacts begin to appear, depending on the level of noise reduction used. Daytime photography will generally see you hovering around 160 to 640 ISO, so this shouldn’t impact most shooters. Night-time and indoor photography may be a different matter.

Despite these few compromises, the Nikon Z Fc is a stylish blend of retro charm — nodding to the many decades of SLR cameras behind it — and state-of-the-art technology. It’s a camera that is sure to appeal to casual photographers

A version of this article appears in print in our fourth edition, Page 48 of T Australia with the headline:
“Digital Influencer”
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The Personalised Headphones Producing High Fidelity

When it comes to acoustics, the problem is we all hear differently. Cue a new headphone design that promises performance as tailored as your playlists.

Article by Mark Gambino

Nurabuds allow the listener to import their hearing profile to create a personalised listening experience. Photography courtesy of Nura.

Once, a solid turntable and a pair of ancient, and probably heavy, speakers was the closest you could get to hearing music the way the artist intended it. Now, a smartphone and a modestly priced pair of earbud headphones is all you need to journey to a similar place. But the pursuit of high fidelity from personal headphones can make or break a manufacturer.

One Australian company has been able to not only achieve that, but also rise to meet the heavyweights of the industry in the process. “Music can be very personal and means something different to everybody,” says Dr Luke Campbell, the chief technology officer and cofounder of the audio company Nura. “We recognise that everybody is unique — and that’s not an abstract thing. You literally hear differently from other people. What we do is analyse the unique characteristics of your hearing and mould your sound to allow you to get the most out of your music.”

As a music lover and an ENT doctor, Campbell began to formulate an idea: what if the hearing test he used to detect the capacity of a patient’s hearing could be employed to personalise music reproduction in headphones so listeners heard every facet of the sound tailored to their ears? The Nuraphone was born. These headphones deliver a truly personalised experience by automatically adapting audio to a listener’s hearing characteristics, rather than the qualities defined by a manufacturer. For example, if your ears perceive low-end frequencies with reduced sensitivity, the headphones will boost that range and give you the full effect.

So groundbreaking was the concept that the Nuraphone received various awards for innovation before its release. Both the audio industry and consumers took notice. Since then, Nura has spawned three iterations of its headphone technology: the original over-ear Nuraphone; the wired Nuraloop; and NuraTrue wireless earbuds, which rest in the ear in much the same way as Apple’s AirPods Pro and Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds.

Offering noise cancellation, sweat resistance, Nura’s personalised audio delivery and immersion and social functions, NuraTrue is a very portable alternative to the full-size version, without the sacrifices that usually accompany miniaturisation. This full set of features illustrates the Nura team’s dedication to ensuring compromise plays no part in a music lover’s listening time. “NuraTrue was a really exciting project for us,” says Campbell. “We wanted to take the incredible advances over the last couple of years that have enabled true wireless earbuds, package them with all the smarts and offer them in a convenient form factor.”

Luke Campbell, an ENT doctor turned cofounder of the audio company Nura. Photography courtesy of Nura.

He says that combining these technologies without sacrificing sound quality required “a blind focus on giving our users the best experience of their music. That was our approach to designing every aspect of the product.” The ultimate aim was to enable the deepest possible emotional connection — something that is now the company’s core mission.

“Music has the power to connect you with the people who created it and the people you’re experiencing it with,” says Campbell. “Most importantly, it connects you to your emotions in the moment, the emotions you feel when listening to the music and the emotions of those around you. It’s a really powerful thing.”

Wireless Freedoms

The advent of true wireless earbuds has freed us from the shackles of copper wire. Despite the drop in scale — from classic over-ear “cans” to tiny gadgets that slip into your pocket — these thumb- sized wonders boast features normally associated with their larger counterparts, thanks to cutting-edge tech. Social features, such as the ability to dial in and out of the outside world to allow easy conversation, make earbuds a safer alternative when outdoors, not to mention a little more socially acceptable when you’re in the office or at the supermarket checkout. For those who exercise regardless of weather conditions, earbuds with sweat- and water-resistance are non-negotiable.

Nuratrue, $299

Nura’s foray into true wireless earbuds are true in every sense. Present is the company’s audio technology that reproduces music authentically, tailored to your hearing. Swapping in these earbuds after wearing others highlights the customised audio, which will very quickly set the benchmark for your listening devices. The earbuds’ immersion feature, which focuses ultra-low frequency sound against the skin and inner ear to create a feeling of presence, needs to be experienced to be believed.

Beats Studio Buds, $199.95

These new Beats earbuds are a great alternative to the brand’s Powerbeats Pro model, trading the latter’s ear hooks for a more compact and comfortable in-ear design. Beats delivers its trademark performance with these buds, combining powerful low ends and balanced response with smart features that play well with both iOS and Android smartphones. While these easily outperform the standard AirPods created by Apple (the parent company of Beats), iPhone users wanting improved active noise- cancelling should opt for Apple’s AirPods Pro. 

Sony WF-1000XM4, $449.95

The noise-cancellation specialist has bottled lightning with this product, the latest in its headphones range. The compact fit is the first aspect you’ll notice; these earbuds balance perfectly in the ear. Fire up your favourite tune and the performance is superb, with Sony’s noise-cancelling technology dealing with background sound to ensure every frequency in the music can breathe.

A version of this article appears in print in our third edition, Page 52 of T Australia with the headline:
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