Complex smart-life band, automatic calorie tracking, water balance measurement and emotional state monitoring: these were just a few promises of the GoBe2 health and lifestyle wristband. However, what you get is a black, clumsy gadget designed exclusively for males with random measurements and uncontrollable on-off status. The Medical Futurist team tested Healbe’s GoBe2, and the results are disappointing.

A Russian scam or a real health tracker?

Healbe, a Russian start-up claiming to operate in the US has been a controversial company for years with hard-to-believe claims about the capabilities of its tracker. In 2015, The Washington Post enlisted many red flags around the company starting from Healbe not being allowed to advertise through traditional media channels until the lack of scientific evidence for its claims. On the other hand, its Indiegogo campaign has more than 4,000 backers, who donated more than a million dollar for the implementation of the project. As The Medical Futurist loves challenges, we decided to test GoBe2.

Especially as the most important feature of its fitness tracker is that it can automatically track the calories you eat – after your body processes them. You don’t have to swipe the barcode of the food item you consume or look up a calorie count. As The Medical Futurist is an avid fitness tracker with dozens of tested wearables and experience about the limits of sensors; when someone says that a device can ‘automatically’ track how your body burns calories through measuring changes in glucose levels via moisture from the skin, while assessing hydration levels as well as overall fitness, that raises eyebrows. As Engadget expressed it, the method seemed to be as feasible as capturing a unicorn fart. But we wanted to give GoBe2 a chance to convince us of its technology and measurements.

GoBe2 review

Is glucose monitoring through the skin possible?

For several reasons. First of all, glucose measurement through the skin is extremely challenging. As many researchers and developers label it, it’s “the holy grail” in glucose monitoring. The FDA cleared a device called GlucoWatch in 2002 that promised to draw glucose from interstitial fluid just under the surface of the skin through the use of weak electric currents, but the measurements were not reliable, and it irritated the skin, so it was taken out of production in 2007. No device has taken its place yet.

However, the Healbe GoBe2 seems to go beyond monitoring glucose levels. In only a few words, the company promises on its website to measure how your cells absorb glucose and release water by sending high and low-frequency signals through your tissue. There is no indication of any scientific study with evidence for the technology or any more details.

Moreover, doctors and experts told TechHive that there is no correlation between glucose levels and calories. Our diet not only consists of glucose-rich meals and the glucose we absorb does not necessarily get to the cells under our wrists where GoBe2 tracks glucose level changes.

GoBe2 review

Clumsy wristband for men, no monitor and random operation

The black, clumsy wristband was definitely designed by males for males only. However, the gadget is definitely for “hard wear”; there is no chance for any user breaking it. It actually seems to be perfect if you want to spend some time among grizzly bears in Siberia. However, when you pursue the idea of urban living, a big, clumsy wristband will irritate your skin and be uncomfortable after 10 minutes.

Moreover, the wristband does not have a monitor; the user can only see the status of the battery, a few basic details such as the number of steps and the watch, so you only have meaningful information about the measurements if you sync it with the app.

In addition, the lack of monitor does not only keep you from reading your health and fitness information real-time, but you cannot even be sure whether it’s switched on. Members of The Medical Futurist team had a hard time assessing whether the device is on or off. Sometimes it does not sense contact with the skin, and it switches to battery save mode – without any notification. It is annoying as you never know whether your gadget is measuring something or not. Moreover, if the weather is sunny and bright, you cannot really see anything on display – that was the moment when we were sure it was tested on the borderless Russian taigas during the icy winter.

GoBe2 review

Too many promises, too many random measurements

The GoBe2 is the second generation of Healbe trackers, and the original GoBe’s features – measuring heart rate, sleep quality, automatic calorie intake and diet counting – was amended with measuring hydration levels and overall emotional state. The Medical Futurist was already skeptical about the calorie intake measurement, but the water balance tracking and assessment of the user’s emotional state seem to be just as questionable.

On the website, there are no details about the measurement for stress levels; the app says that the sensor calculates it based on current and daily heart rate number, sleep quality data and “other health” information, which we don’t really know anything about. As they do not indicate how exactly the tracker measures water balance either, we asked the Healbe team for some clarification. They sent us a document in Russian and another one detailing their patent for hydration tracking, however, the team asked us not to share them publicly. We can only say that the latter does not exactly specify how the sensor does its measurements.

When testing the device, the hydration level, as well as the energy balance counter, seemed to show arbitrary values. Dr. Meskó could not make any difference between stress and emotional status, but after one of his keynotes, the GoBe2 indicated elevated stress level, and he thought it’s useful to know when the user has to release stress. For our editor, there was no time during the day when the tracker showed any increased stress level – and she is neither an unusually relaxed person, nor did she lend the tracker to a sloth.

The GoBe app

For receiving your health information, the sensor has to be synced with the app, which is an unnecessarily lengthy process. However, after getting through syncing, the user arrives at a surprisingly simple app with straightforward instructions and an easy-to-use menu. Moreover, you can export your data to Apple Health or other apps on your smartphone.

On the other hand, it is not so easy to analyze the data. It would be useful to see the health information for daily intervals instead of 4-5 hours. It’s also surprisingly difficult to go back to data from 2-3 weeks. Our editor could not even find those values anymore in her GoBe2 app, only in the Apple Health. Thus, it would be useful for the developers to spend some more time on the app and improve the UX.

On the plus side: GoBe2’s sleep tracker and heart rate monitor

There were certain areas where the GoBe2 did not let us down. It works reliably as a conventional heart rate monitor, step counter, and sleep tracker. Dr. Meskó measured his pulse rate with the GoBe2, as well as his Fitbit Ionic at the same time on both of his arms, and the two sensors had very similar results.

The gadget also performed well as a sleep tracker. It has a smart sleep alarm function, which worked as promised: it woke up Dr. Meskó at the end of his REM phase with a gentle vibration. That is the first wearable since Pebble Time that could present the smart sleep alarm. Our editor was not so lucky, because somehow the wristband turned off during the nights of testing (it wasn’t due to the empty-batteries-problematic), it was just some random event, so she was woken up only by her Sleep Cycle app.

Another positive feature of the GoBe2 is its battery time. It can function for two days without charging; although as you never know whether the device is turned on or off, we cannot be sure about its actual battery time.

Overall, the GoBe2 performs well when it comes to “simple” tracking measurements such as heart rate or sleep tracking, which does not make it unique on the market of fitness and health trackers at all. The smart sleep alarm is its best function, but the calorie/diet counter, the hydration or stress level assessing features leave a lot to be desired. Not to speak about its many failures as a design item. The Medical Futurist hopes that the GoBe3 will eliminate all the weaknesses of its predecessors.

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