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Apple’s Secret Fitness Lab & The Apple Watch That Tracks Your Fitness

Tech giant Apple has been employing a bold strategy to keep one of its top-selling products—the Apple Watch—head-and-shoulders above the competition. Remarkably, it has been studying and tracking how Apple employees go about exercising for the last 2 years. It seems that there’s such a thing as an Apple’s secret fitness lab.

Apple’s Secret Fitness Lab & Apple Employees

The Apple Watch was released in 2014. Then in 2015, Apple started testing other features and algorithms to make it more than an ordinary smartwatch. The company did all the testing and activity-tracking in a nondescript old building at the Cupertino campus in California. From the outside, the building does not look like much. However, once inside, there’s no mistaking that it is a very high-tech facility—with a fitness center pointing to the idea of an Apple’s secret fitness lab.

Apple employees volunteer to exercise at this facility to provide data for the Apple Watch developments and upgrades. These are regular people from all across the spectrum of human build and body types. They engage in exercise activities —including swimming, running, and other typical gym activities.

While the employees work out, they are strapped to high-tech monitors to measure their breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, how much oxygen they breathe in, and how much carbon dioxide they exhale. They also sometimes take a bike ride outside of the facility with their mask-like monitoring equipment.

Improving Health Tracking With the Apple Watch

Since it was created, the facility—that is, Apple’s secret fitness lab —has collected data from volunteers who are either exercising or at rest. This data has been used by developers to improve the watch’s algorithms and features. The developers have given the assurance that the personal data on the watch was not being uploaded to Apple servers. This fact would explain the need for having its own test subjects. Personal health information in servers can be a big security risk. Instead, personal health data is stored in the watch itself.

According to Jay Blahnik, the director of fitness for health technologies for Apple, the facility has collected more biometric information than any other research arm. Apple purchased more than 50 metabolic carts, which are used to measure oxygen consumption. The company is the single largest buyer of these machines. Half of the machines are portable and can be used for testing volunteers as they ride a bike or swim. When volunteers bike, there is also a security guard who bikes with them.

a cartoon of a swimmer wearing an Apple Watch while doing freestyle swimming in Apple's secret fitness lab pool
Since it was created, the facility—that is, Apple’s secret fitness lab —has collected data from volunteers who are either exercising or at rest!

Apple’s secret fitness lab has an endless pool where insight on swimming is used as well. There are other rooms or chambers in the building which simulate other environmental conditions like atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity. All kinds of activities are tested in these different environments. Besides the basic vital signs monitoring, Apple has been working on other initiatives— including the ability to read the blood sugar levels in real-time.

Other Details on the Apple Watch

The latest Apple Watch features would include wireless data links to an Apple Watch OS 4 compatible treadmill. The research at the gym will all go to further improvements on features aimed at the wearables market. Currently, Fitbit has a 22.5 percent share of the market, with Apple garnering 10.7 percent for third place after Xiaomi. In terms of smartwatches alone, Apple has the biggest market share.

What’s in the Future of Apple?

Apple has been known for its secrecy in developing products as well as in its plans for the future. Apple’s secret fitness lab and the studies they do there are part of the culture of the company. It should be no surprise that they have thrown a lot of money and resources at the Apple Watch and they are putting all of their research results gathered from the gym into further improving the usability of this wearable.

When it was first launched, the Apple Watch sold about 1.5 million watches. This fact was followed by sales of 200,000 units a day, Marketwatch reported. The technology is being tweaked to move from simple fitness tracking to actual healthcare. Apple is said to be creating a smartwatch that can monitor the blood glucose levels of diabetics in a noninvasive manner.

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Cure For Blindness? DARPA-Funded FlatScope Enters The Medical Field!

In man’s incessant search for the cure for blindness and deafness, a revolutionary new concept is being put forward as the answer to lost hearing and eyesight. Scientists have created a flat microscope—aptly called “FlatScope—that can be fitted inside the brain to help restore vision and improve sounds. According to MSN, the FlatScope sits in the brain to monitor and trigger neurons and can capture more detail than existing brain probes. Experts claim the device could cure both blindness and deafness.

The Rice University team behind the concept says the device “not only captures more detail than existing brain probes (the team is hoping to see “a million” neurons) but [also] reach[es] levels deep enough that it should shed light on how the mind processes sensory input. And that, in turn, opens the door to controlling sensory input.”

Using Technology To Find A Cure for Blindness

In theory, the technology, as a cure for blindness, could be used by blind people to see their surroundings via a camera which will send data to their brain using FlatScope. The camera could be fitted to a pair of glasses and be invisible to the person you are speaking with. Similar scenarios can be put forward for loss of hearing. Participants can pick up sounds using a microphone which will then be sent to the brain using FlatScope.

“The inspiration comes from advances in semiconductor manufacturing,” noted Jacob Robinson, a FlatScope researcher. “We’re able to create extremely dense processors with billions of elements on a chip for the phone in your pocket. So why not apply these advances to neural interfaces?”

DARPA-Funded FlatScope

a photo of a scientist using a machine to look at the eyes of a patient beside a computerized image of a brain and another image of a magnified microchip, amid mankind's search for the cure for blindness

FlatScope is currently being perfected as part of a military project but is also proving a generally important technology within the medical field — especially as a cure for blindness —that could help millions of blind or deaf people around the world.

Currently being used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), FlatScope has become an important part of the agencies high-resolution neural interface initiative. So far, developers have received $4 million in investment to work on the project, and more are slotted for allocation early next year. The project is currently being looked at for a commercial market. And tests are set to take place in the very near future to aid the healthcare industry.

A Bold Hope for People

“If technologies like the microscope lead to a way to quickly interpret neuron activity, it should be possible to craft sensors that send audiovisual data to the brain and effectively take over for any missing senses. Any breakthrough on that level is a long way off (at best) when even FlatScope exists as just a prototype, but there is some hope that blindness and deafness will eventually become things of the past,” MSN writes.

Certainly, it remains to be seen if FlatScope will make it onto the commercial healthcare market. Nevertheless, as technological developments in both the audio and visual fields enter the market at a rapid rate, the existence of FlatScope is good news for blind and deaf people worldwide.

Softbank to Boost Grab with $2 Billion

Masayoshi Son’s Softbank is reportedly in talks to invest $2 billion in Grab, the leading ride-sharing and transport app in Southeast Asia. Softbank has a prior investment in the company, having already put in $250 million in 2014. The additional $2 billion capital infusion forms part of their $93-billion Vision Fund which is based on a valuation of $5 billion for Grab-the biggest valuation for a startup in Southeast Asia.

Earlier reports said venture capitalists are intentionally investing in Uber’s rivals in different regions to prevent it from completely dominating the market.

Son’s 40% stake is one of the largest venture capital infusions for a startup in the region. The tech mogul is known for investing the equivalent of 20% to 40% of a company’s valuation. Softbank is supporting ride-sharing apps in the region especially after the success of Uber in the United States. The company foresees a huge market expansion in Southeast Asia, especially in China, where they also have a stake in Didi Chuxing, another ride-sharing app with a user base of about 400 million people.

Grab currently operates in 39 cities across six countries. With more than 36 million downloads, there is still a lot of room to grow, as the region has more than 630 million in population and between 150 million to 200 million cell phones. The market for ride-sharing in Southeast Asia is expected to grow from $2.5 billion in 2015, to $13.1 billion in ten years.

In Southeast Asia Grab has more than 710,000 drivers for their services, which includes Grab Taxi, Grab Car, Grab Coach, and others. They have a wide range of transport options which include cars, taxis, motorcycles, shuttle vans and buses.

The Battle is On; Grab, Uber, Or an Unknown?

Masayoshi Son and some of his companies.

On the other hand, their closest competitor, Uber, is also operating in Southeast Asia, competing with local ride-sharing apps. Earlier reports said venture capitalists are intentionally investing in Uber’s rivals in different regions to prevent it from completely dominating the market.

Grab’s expansion plan includes cross-interoperability with other ride-sharing companies, like India’s Ola, China’s Didi Chuxing, and Lyft. The company has also been aggressive in offering other ride-sharing and transport-related services. It recently launched GrabCoach for corporate and group customers. This service uses buses and minivans for transporting large groups of people from 13 to 40 passengers at a time.

They also have delivery services (door-to-door courier services) in some areas. Among other things, Grab is also heavily into cashless payment and they are developing an app where transaction services like PayPal, and credit cards can be integrated into one.

Grab has also extended its reach, opening in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. It has likewise expanded services in Indonesia, with an investment of $700 million in ecommerce startup Kudo. The amount will be used to widen the reach of their digital wallet allowing for cashless transactions, not only for Kudo, but also for Grab in Indonesia.

Grab recently opened additional research and engineering sites in Asia. The new engineering centers will be in Bangalore, India, along with Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. They will also be opening another engineering center in Jakarta, Indonesia, which will raise the number of offices to six. They already have offices in Beijing, and in Seattle, WA, as well as their headquarters in Singapore.

With the investment resources of Softbank, Grab may well set the standard for ride hailing and courier services worldwide. In addition, Son’s investments in basic research may give these companies a technology edge over time. Asia is coming on strong with new services in all industries and bold new ways of getting the job done.