Health Cubby: iPhone App to Track Health Goals

For the last month, I've been testing Health Cubby, a $9.99 iPhone app designed to track health and fitness goals. This is the first time I've used a computer program (much less an iPhone app) to track this kind of information, and I've been pleasantly surprised -- because I always have the iPhone with me, I find myself actually tracking my meals, weight, exercise, and various fitness goals. After a workout, there's a certain geeky fun in recording it in the app (a quick process) and watching my little "goal bars" fill in. Here are screenshots of a recent week with progress bars (left), and a list view of my cardio sessions (right):

Health Cubby screenshots

Health Cubby lets you track weekly goals, and you choose what's important to you. To get started, I set a modest goal of three cardio sessions and one strength-training session a week. The sessions are open-ended -- you can define how long each session is, and the app counts up your total time spent. Health Cubby also tracks vices, for those inevitable moments when you fall off the wagon and indulge yourself with food, alcohol, or whatever your particular vice may be (you can customize the vice list). I set myself a fairly liberal vice goal (up to four a week!), and have actually found myself checking my iPhone to see whether I have any "vice points" left for the week. Yes, this is nerdy. And yes, I actually think it's helpful. By tracking weight and measurements (so far I'm just doing weight), Health Cubby automatically generates graphs showing you weight over time. To get a graph, just turn the device sideways, and you get something like this:

Health Cubby - weight graph

Even more interesting, you can sync the data to a central server and export your data for use in Excel! So if you don't like the graphs you get from Health Cubby, you can take your data with you and make your own. (The app simply emails a CSV file of whatever data you search for...to export everything, run a search and leave the search field blank.) What's more, you can add friends to your Health Cubby network, and share results with them -- that way you can see when your buddy is losing more weight or working out harder. (You can also hide your actual weight from friends, instead showing just a weight loss percentage. This is a smart feature!) While I haven't tested the social features, they seem useful in concept.

Health Cubby also lets you track meals, taking a simplified approach -- you simply list what you ate, what type of meal it was (breakfast, lunch, etc.), and give it a "star rating" from one to five stars. I like this a lot, as it lets me define what a "five star meal" is to me. Obsessive calorie counters may not like this approach (as the app is NOT counting detailed calorie breakdowns), but personally I've never felt that detailed calorie counting was a great use of my time. I'd rather track general goals and attempt to do better, rather than break down everything by the numbers.

To get started with Health Cubby (without laying down ten bucks), try Health Cubby Lite, a free version that is limited to storing only 10 records. While the Lite version won't get you very far towards your fitness goals, it'll be clear whether you're willing to upgrade to the full version. Personally, I plan to keep using the app, as I've become sort of addicted -- every week I feel compelled to fill in my little cardio bar, not fill in my vice bar, and strive towards "five star meals."

To buy, click: Health Cubby: $9.99 on the iTunes Store. Health Cubby works on both the iPhone and iPod Touch. See also: more info on Health Cubby.

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A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
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The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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The 'David Bowie Is' Exhibition Is Coming to Your Smartphone
 Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images
Ralph Gatti, AFP/Getty Images

"David Bowie is," an exhibition dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of the pop icon, concluded its six-year world tour on July 15. If you didn't get a chance to see it in person at its final stop at New York City's Brooklyn Museum, you can still experience the exhibit at home. As engadget reports, the artifacts displayed in the collection will be recreated in virtual and augmented reality.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, the curator of the exhibit, and the David Bowie Archive are collaborating with Sony Music Entertainment and the sound and media studio Planeta on the new project, "David Bowie is Virtual." Like the physical exhibition, the digital experience will integrate visual scenes with the music of David Bowie: 3D scans will bring the musician's costumes and personal items into the virtual sphere, allowing viewers to examine them up close, and possibly in the case of the outfits, try them on.

"These new digital versions of ‘David Bowie is’ will add unprecedented depth and intimacy to the exhibition experience, allowing the viewer to engage with the work of one of the world’s most popular and influential artists as never before," the announcement of the project reads. "Both the visual richness of this show and the visionary nature of Bowie and his art makes this a particularly ideal candidate for a VR/AR adaptation."

"David Bowie is Virtual" will be released for smartphones and all major VR and AR platforms sometimes this fall. Like the museum exhibition, it will come with an admission price, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

[h/t engadget]

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