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Olympians turn to wearables, virtual reality and other digital health tools for an edge in Rio

Stashed in: Quantified Self, Olympics!, Virtual Reality!, Olympics, Quantified Self, Augmented Reality, Augmented Reality!

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Samsung offered gifts to every athelete and included a little bit of digital health flair. As reported by Engadget, Samsung gifted 12,500 Olympic athletes with a special edition Galaxy S7 Edge phone. In addition to an Olympics-inspired design and a built-in Rio Olympics app, the phones came with Samsung's Gear IconX heartrate-tracking earbuds, which can send data to Samsung's S Health app.

So what technology were Olympians using to gear up for the Summer Games? Well, virtual and augmented reality, for starters. The US Cycling team tapped Solos, a recent Kickstarter sensation that makes smart cycling goggles, to help them train. Solos goggles can display movement tracking data as well as heart rate data streamed from other wearables, giving cyclists near-realtime feedback. The goggles can also communicate with cycling apps like Strava and MapMyRun.

One triathlon athlete, Gwen Jorgensen, also used virtual reality to prepare herself for the cycling part of the actual course she'd be biking in Rio. Popular Science has the remarkable story:


US swimmers Ryan Lochte, Dana Vollmer, and Connor Jaeger; US wrestler Adeline Grey, and US basketball player Kyle Lowry are all using Whoop, a wearable tracker for athletes that raised $12 million last fall, according to a feature in USA Today. The Whoop Strap is a 24-hour, always-on wearable for athletes that is worn on the wrist and tracks heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductivity, ambient temperature, and movement, and can also deliver insights about an athlete's sleep quality. The device sends that data via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet app used by a coach or trainer. USA Today says that other US swimmers, including Michael Phelps, are using apps like SleepRate to track their sleep.

Finally, after they're done training, some athletes are using wearables to relieve muscle and joint pain. US gymnasts are using a device called Lumiwave, from Colorado-based BioCare Systems, to eliminate soreness. It uses infrared pulses to induce the release of nitrous oxide, promoting healing on the cellular level, according to Business Insider. The device has been used by Olympians as far back as 2004, but is just now being made available to the public.

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