$199 iRiver On Earbuds Capture Heart Rate, Performance As You Work Out

Powered by PerformTek Precision Biometrics technology, the iRiver On headphones include a light emitter and light sensor in one earpiece. The emitter shines a light through the skin of the ear and into nearby blood vessels. While much of the light is absorbed by skin, the remainder actually bounces back to the paired sensor.

The tech magic here is that PerformTek has calculated a method to transform that returning light into heart-rate data. And from there, the PerformTek system, which includes an API with architecture for mixing in geography and accelerometer data from the smartphone in addition to the light sensor, gathers and displays all sorts of bio-info, including distance, speed, cadence and aerobic performance.

We caught up with PerformTek at CES 2013, where reps were speed-walking on a treadmill with a PerformTek prototype firmer in the ear. We could see their heart rates climb or drop as they walked-and-talked with passerby or simply strode in silence.

The iRiver On headphones, the first product to launch with PerformTek’s tech built in, will work over Bluetooth 3.0 with an app for Android and iOS when it launches in March. We hit up the iRiver booth at CES for a sneak peak of the application. Things were pretty straightforward, with output channels to measure calories, distance traveled, long-term performance and even a section to store your favorite workout mixes.

We were also stoked by the design of iRiver’s headset. Similar to Apple’s Earpods, the all-white headphones were contoured to fit ear canals, but they were a bit softer and more snug. What really excited us, though, was the fact that the headphones extended out of a collar that’s worn around the neck. The collar was adjustable to help limit jostle as well. Another bonus: The iRiver On works for making calls.

For fitness fans and runners, it looks like the iRiver On could be a must-have gadget, depending on how well it performs once it’s released this spring. Bet you can’t wait to get your run on.

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