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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Meet Microsoft Band, Microsoft's $200, fitness-focused wrist wearable

Wednesday night Microsoft confirmed what we all expected—that it, too, has an activity tracker that it wants you to wear 24/7, for work and for play. It's called the Microsoft Band. Looking as much like a hospital bracelet as anything else, the $200 Microsoft Band features a rectangular, 320x106 TFT display that hovers over your wrist. Sensors—a continuous optical heart monitor, GPS, UV sensor, and more—track your activity while on the move and at rest, and send the data to what Microsoft calls the Intelligence Engine, aka Cortana’s little brother. The Band is designed to work with third-party apps, including MyFitnessPal, Run Keeper, and even Starbucks, which has developed a “payment” app of sorts.


In all, Microsoft is calling the Band its flagship device of Microsoft Health, a reboot of sorts for a health initiative it tried to establish with products like Health Vault. If you choose, you can store the data the Band collects in Health Vault and share it with your medical provider. Otherwise, Microsoft sees the Band, and Health, as a new way to collect data about you that it can use to improve your day.

How? Initially, Microsoft sees the Intelligence Engine as supplying suggestions on how long to recover from a workout, for example. Over time, the Engine will apparently be able to comment on whether eating breakfast will make you run faster and more effectively. It’s unclear how the Engine will feed data into Cortana, but she’s there: You’ll be able to ask Microsoft’s digital assistant to add calendar entries, for example, or dictate a text. And, of course, the Band will notify you about upcoming appointments, as your Windows Phone already does.

“Imagine you've set the goal that you want to get fit and lose weight as part of your exercise routine,” Zulfi Alam, general manager of Personal Devices at Microsoft, said in a statement. “Based on your burn rate and exercise over one week, we will soon be able to auto-suggest a customized workout plan for you. As you follow that plan – or if you don’t follow the plan – our technology will continue to adjust to give you the best outward-looking plan, like a real coach would do.”

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