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Smart T-shirt tracks fitness, coaches during workout

Monday - 5/19/2014, 3:56am  ET

OMsignal Biometric Smartwear (OMsignal)
A new smart T-shirt can track your performance and health during a workout (OMsignal)

WASHINGTON -- T-shirts aren't just for preventing sweating through a dress shirt anymore. A new line of smart T-shirts tracks the wearer's health and fitness stats during a workout.

OMsignal has launched its Biometric Smartwear collection -- undershirt, sleeveless shirt, casual T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt -- each embedded with sensors to measure stress, activity and fitness levels.

Jesse Slade Shantz, chief medical officer at OMSignal, says the shirts measure heart rate, breathing rate, breathing depth, activity intensity, steps walked, calories burned and heart-rate variability.

Unlike a laboratory setting, the user isn't burdened with wires criss-crossing the body.

"We've got all those integrated into the shirt," says Shantz. "So all you have to do is take it out of the box, put it on, connect your phone to the little black box, and you're ready to go."

The black box changes the analog input into digital information and transmits it to the OMsignal iOS smartphone app.

"It's about the size of a pack of gum, and it clips onto the side of the shirt with some snaps that are the leads from the shirt," says Shantz.

Shantz says the shirt is easy to operate.

"You just need to pair up the box with Bluetooth once, and then you have a connection whenever the box is charged," Shantz says.

Don't toss it in the dryer, yet

Shantz says the sensors built into the shirts, which will come in six color combinations, will withstand the washing machine.

"We've actually tested it out to about 50 washes and there's no loss of signal," says Shantz.

But Shantz says not to throw the damp shirt into the clothes dryer.

"We're just starting to test because we've told people not to dry them," says Shantz, "but we're trying to make sure we don't lose any signal there as well, because we'd like to be able to tell people just treat it like the rest of your laundry."

And don't worry about shorting out the shirt with excessive sweating.

"Actually the sweating makes your signal better," says Shantz, "because the leads are actually woven from conductive yarn, so when you sweat you actually get a better contact, and the salt in your sweat actually gives you a better signal from the shirt."

The shirts are now available for a pre-order cost of $199 for one shirt and black box.

Shantz acknowledges people were able to get good workouts without wearable gadgets.

"The idea that people used to work out before these things and did just fine is true," says Shantz, "but there's a real issue with people maintaining their motivation to keep going to the gym."

The shirt can "coach" the wearer with suggestions, such as "breathe deeper," based on the data transmitted to the iOS app.

Sharing results on social media helps users keep focused on their goals, says Shantz.

OMsignal says its men's shirts will begin shipping during the summer, and women's shirts will be available by the end of the year.

See how OMsignal Biometric Smartwear works in this promotional video:

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