Most wearables perform only a few functions. They count your steps, show you the time, or track your heart rate. These unusual devices do much more. For instance, one attaches to your body or your bike and shows you a real-time weather forecast. Another tells you when you are stressed out and should breathe a bit slower. While the Apple Watch gets all of the attention, these gadgets fit into a niche that might just solve a real problem or provide a distinct benefit.
1. WEZR weather tracker ($TBD)
Weather forecasts are not always perfectly accurate. In fact, they tend to let you down when you expect sunshine and get a downpour. The WEZR is different. It looks like an oversized button you attach to your body (or anything near you). Once synced to your phone over Bluetooth, you can also see the temp in your area, or what the weather is like over a hill or across the lake. It’s packed with a barometer, temperature gauge, and humidity sensor.
2. Microsoft Band fitness band ($199)
FitBit gets all of the attention these days, but the Microsoft Band is much more advanced. It has sensors that read your heart rate, movement, and even your exact location. The display is colorful, bright, clear, and highly readable. If you use a phone like the Nokia Lumia 830, you can reply by voice to text messages and records voice memos and reminders.
Available in both a watch version and a clip-on, the Kapture records 60-second clips so you can save them on your phone. It’s unique in that it is always recording, but you tap twice to save. An app for the iPhone or Android lets you edit the clip and publish it for other users to hear. The built-in microphone records in a 5-foot area – the Kapture lasts about one day.
Step counters can track your health. The Spire is for encouraging healthy behavior. The device clips inside your pants (women can also use it with a bra). When you breathe too heavily, the Spire vibrates as a reminder to deal with the stress. You can try breathing slower or in a measured pattern. An app tracks breathing, steps, and calories.
5. Sony 4K action camera ($500)
A 4K action camera you wear on your head? That’s the idea with the new Sony ActionCam, which can also be used with a car mount or a handheld mount. For videos, you can film at a stunning 3840×2160 resolution. Note that a specially formatted SD memory card is required. To view the videos, you’ll also need a 4K monitor like the ViewSonic VP2780-4K 27-Inch. The camera uses image stabilization to make sure photos turn out perfectly.
This fitness band comes with a few hidden surprises. Of course, the device tracks your steps, your heart rate, and your sleep patterns. As a sign that wearables are going to expand much further, the UP4 also lets you pay with your wrist. You hold the band against a payment terminal to conduct the transaction. For now, it only works with American Express.
Mindcraft is a world-building game for creative thinkers. This wristband shows the time and date, but you can remove it and, using any USB connection, plug it into a Mac, Windows or even Linux computer. The game is contained on the wristband along with a few pre-loaded worlds, so when you play, you can save it back to the band or sync to an online portal.