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Wearable Tech Comes to Rings

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Copyright 2018 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

Hear the word "wearable technology" — or "wearables," for short — and you likely conjure up images of fitness trackers or smartwatches.

Add "smart rings" to that list, too.

While some early examples of smart rings have already come and gone (namely, Ringly), a host of others are attempting to fuse functionality with fashion. I took three such smart rings out for a spin — two available now and one coming soon. Here's a look at what I found.

Blinq ($149-$199; blinqblinq.com)

Blinq is a line of fashion-forward jewelry that lets you keep your smartphone tucked away in a purse or pocket yet still be discreetly notified when a call, text or email comes in, as well as other notifications tied to your calendar or favorite apps.

In the Blinq companion app for iOS and Android, you'll assign colors to specific apps — like seeing the ring glow blue for a text message, green for an Instagram comment or purple for when your Uber is nearby — but you can also assign colors to specific people, like red for when your partner messages you. If you like, the Blinq ring also vibrates to alert you to notifications.

My wife Kellie wore the ring for a week, and one of the features she liked, for peace of mind, was called a Panic S.O.S. mode. If you find yourself in an emergency, tap the ring repeatedly, and the companion app can text someone your GPS location and, if you like, also post this info to your Facebook wall. This Bluetooth-enabled ring also has an integrated fitness tracker — calculating steps, distance and estimated calories burned — and sends the activity info to the app.

Available in 12 different styles and three finishes (rose, yellow and white gold), each Blinq ring is made from sterling silver or 14K gold.

Blinq will be available on Amazon this summer.

Motiv Ring ($199; mymotiv.com)

Available now, the Motiv Ring is a fitness-centric wearable. After ordering, you'll first receive a sizing kit, with which you can try on various mock rings, and then select the desired size and color (slate gray or rose gold).

Motiv Ring houses a 3-axis accelerometer that tracks steps taken, heart rate, calories burned and sleep activity. It's also waterproof (up to 165 feet), should you want to calculate your swimming exercises. All your activity data can be seen on the iOS and Android app. At less than 0.1inches thick, the titanium Motiv Ring is thinner than two nickels and weighs less than a penny. Battery life lasts up to three days, with two USB charges included in the box.

NFC Ring ($115; nfcring.com)

Made with scratch-resistant ceramics, the minimalist-looking OPN from NFC Ring offers a few different applications. All of them, however, leverage near field communication technology. One scenario is to tap your ring on another NFC-enabled device, such as a friend's smartphone, and then content that you choose ahead of time magically appears on the other person's screen. This could be contact information, your website, text, a link to your Twitter or Facebook page, even a YouTube video.

While not tested, OPN may also be able to replace your NFC fobs and cards, such as what you might use to get into an office building or condo tower. Or you can use it to unlock your mobile device or program it to open a specific app or settings (like turning on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) by simply tapping the ring on your phone or tablet.

While NFC Ring cannot be used for mobile payments, its parent company, McLear, is readying a payment-enabled smart ring that looks similar to OPN (price and launch date not determined just yet). Available in white or black, NFC Ring comes with two special NFC tag inlays inside the ring, one for public information and one for more sensitive stuff, the company says.

Put away the phone

Each costing between $100 and $200, these rings were ready for prime time — with Blinq my favorite out of the bunch.

Interestingly, each of the three rings I tried had a different focus: Blinq was a fashion statement that lets you see and feel notifications; Motiv is mostly for activity and sleep; and NFC Ring can easily transfer info to another device, unlock your phone or let you into a place that requires an NFC keycard. There's a bit of crossover, too, such as Blinq's ability to track fitness, like Motiv, but each ring had its own primary purpose.

While the look won't be for everyone and is designed for women, Blinq was the most versatile, colorful and customizable. One minor issue: The USB wireless charger was an odd shape, and as such, the ring didn't always stay on the sensor.

Another ring I wanted to try, Oura (ouraring.com), wasn't quite ready yet but should be coming out this summer and will specialize in sleep tracking.

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May 29, 2018
 
 
 

 

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