SXSW takes on fitness, outdoor tech products — a bike with mind-controlled gears

While the annual SXSW conference in Austin, Texas is all about film, music and interactive media, there are also topics directly relevant to the outdoor and fitness industries.
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While the annual SXSW conference in Austin, Texas is all about film, music and interactive media, there were also topics of interest to the outdoor and fitness industries.

Fitness in particular has been stepping into the spotlight at the event, this year with several seminars covering the rise of interactive technologies coinciding with workouts.

The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD and the Austin American Statesman highlighted SXSW 2012’s “Digital Sport: Know More, Do More” panel, which was moderated by comedian Jimmy Fallon and featured the launch of the Nike+ FuelBand. The watch-like device uses an accelerometer to measure movement no matter the exercise (a point that didn’t escape Fallon) with the ability for users to set their own goals or partake in challenges with others.

As previously reported in SNEWS, the latest fitness equipment technologies are looking to capitalize on social media connections to spur workouts, plus ABI Research predicts that the market for wearable wireless devices tracking fitness, sports and wellness activities will grow to nearly 80 million products by 2016.



Other fitness-related SXSW seminars included “Fit Together: How Fitness Goes High-Tech + Social” and “Feel Rich: Health is the New Wealth,” the latter led by Grammy and Emmy award-winning producer Quincy Jones III on how fitness is even gaining ground in the urban and hip-hop community, covered here by the Statesman and here by Black Enterprise.

On the technological horizon, both fitness and outdoor techies might be someday covet a bike that lets them shift gears with their mind. As Innovation News Daily reports from SXSW, Toyota commissioned the technology that uses a wireless helmet system to read brain waves and transmit the instructions to the bike.

In the outdoor world at SXSW, granola bar brand Nature Valley debuted a new digital campaign promoting the nation’s national parks. Nature Valley Trail View offers 300 miles of first-person viewpoints of every step on certain national park trails, starting with the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone. As the technology improves, the media might be useful for outdoor retailers attending to customers shopping for trips to national parks, seeking the right gear for those trails.

Also concerning national parks, this time in Canada, SXSW Interactive recognized Park Canada’s National Parks Project as a finalist in its art category awards. The project captured the parks in music and film, celebrating the organization’s centennial celebration in 2011.

Another award finalist, this time in the community category, that might be of interest to the outdoor industry, is called Trover. The new social media site and app lets users share photos of “discoveries” in a defined location, organized by the distance — from closer to farther — from that location. The site is still in its infancy with a limited database and relies on its users to accurately geotag the locations, but it could be a useful tool in planning outdoor or adventure travel trips.

--David Clucas

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