Kuai and The Dash headphones - the future of fitness tracking?

Headphone units could replace HRMs and head units with a single device

For those looking to get every bit of data during their rides, a heart rate strap and cycling computer and / or smartphone are a bare minimum. If you add multisports, the gadget list increases. Two new products, the Kuaiwear Kuai and Bragi's The Dash, are searching to create an all-in one solution and both are due to ship before the end of the year.  

Kuaiwear Kuai 

Kuai is a set of headphones with a difference – a host of integrated biometric sensors means these could replace your separate heart rate monitor, foot pod, sports watch and MP3 player with a single headset device.

At the heart of the over-the-ear style headphones are over 30 patented technologies developed by biometric sensor specialists Valencell. These include in-ear heart rate monitoring and a built-in three-axis accelerometer.

Kuaiwear is courting cyclists, runners, swimmers and triathletes: kuaiwear is courting cyclists, runners, swimmers and triathletes
Kuaiwear is courting cyclists, runners, swimmers and triathletes: kuaiwear is courting cyclists, runners, swimmers and triathletes
The Kuai is marketed to cyclists, but will surely spark controversy regarding riding with headphones in

The American company’s PerformTek technology has been validated for accuracy by Duke University in North Carolina and allows the Kuai to record data including time, distance, calories burned, heart rate, pace, speed and even swimming speed. ANT+ sensor compatibility further expands the Kuai’s potential with cadence readings.

Valencell co-founder and President, Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, said: “Top-performing athletes need accurate biometric data to optimize performance and achieve their goals, no matter what sport they practice. The most optimal place to capture these metrics is the ear, providing highly accurate biometric readings as well as a convenient form-factor for the user that does not disrupt activity.”

The technology’s accuracy has been validated in a peer-reviewed study citing the Kuai’s accuracy to estimate total energy expenditure (TEE) and maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max).

Aside from the tech itself, usability comes via a virtual coach that gives on-the-fly audio prompts for different telemetry during training. The voice in your ear can also guide you through custom workouts and downloadable training plans. There are two small joysticks for controlling the Kuai, the right side for sports features and the left for music and calls.

Bluetooth connectivity means easy viewing of post-ride details thanks to a free iOS or Android app. Data can also be exported in .FIT format, compatible with Garmin Connect, MapMyFitness and Strava. Bluetooth also means you can pair your phone to be alerted to, and answer, calls during training.

The Kuai has a claimed battery life of five hours, 8GB internal storage, waterproofing up to 3m and is also shockproof. Different ear tips can be used for optimal performance in cycling, swimming and running.

Two years in development and prototyping, the Kuai is ready for manufacture, its recent Kickstarter success going towards tooling and material to produce the first units, which are due to ship this November.

The Kickstarter campaign will run until 9 July and you can pre-order the product for US$99.

Bragi The Dash

That date may well put the Kuai head to head with a similar product – Bragi’s The Dash, which offers 4GB storage but uses a pair of totally wireless earbuds.

Due to ship from September, The Dash (US$300 / €300) also offers in-ear heart rate, oxygen saturation, calories burned and body temperature info. The built-in accelerometer helps you track distance, steps, pace, speed, cadence, time, g-force and even air time. Like the Kuai, there’s realtime acoustic feedback.

In what could be a crucial-for-cyclists feature, The Dash also has an externally facing microphone that enables ‘transparent mode’, which feeds ambient sound through to you while riding.

The dash is small and discreet: the dash is small and discreet
The dash is small and discreet: the dash is small and discreet
The Dash's transparent mode could limit isolation while on the road

The headphones have three sizes of buds for a good fit while the unit is controlled via a capacitive touchpad on its outside face.

The device can also be paired with smartphones to use as a Bluetooth headset for listening to music and answering calls. Claimed battery life is three hours of music playing, with a charge time of less than an hour. The Dash is compatible with third party apps as well as its own free app.

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