Monday, February 13, 2017

Empatica Embrace review, also a moving announcement sort of

 This is the first thing I've written here in a while. For Reasons (like needing to eat) I have made the decision to monetize, while still allowing access to the free content that is why people followed me to begin with. To support me & my writing, please visit My Patreon
 
I kickstarted the Empatica Embrace, a watch that may be able to reduce SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy) by detecting seizures via galvanic skin response + motion detection. With a bluetooth connection to a cell phone, it will also alert designated people about a seizure.
 
In theory this is awesome right? The other data tracking it offers (sleep, exercise/activity) are also pretty cool, and the ability to add seizures that it missed? Sign me up. I was super excited.
 
Except...not so much. First, it arrived over 2 months late. It took over a day to fully charge, rather than the indicated two hours, and this did not speed up until I ignored the device entirely for over a month. Finally it charges up faster than it runs down, but it took some time.
 
Data collection is also iffy. It can't really tell anxiety from physical activity, and it has false alarmed at panic attacks and at bumpy roads. It also decided that 12% of its memory will never make it into my account ever. That's just swell.
To add to the data differentiation issue--the bluetooth feature is terrible. It'll lose connection for no reason a hundred times a day. I have to reset the phone and the bluetooth multiple times each day and I have had to reinstall the Alert app over a dozen times. Since it decided to no longer upload all the information, there's a pretty strong risk of it not recording all the relevant data, as it won't just overwrite that 12%. It's silly that it won't talk to my phone when said phone is in my pocket, but it's completely absurd that they can't communicate when the watch is sitting on top of the phone. 
 
The one time it does consistently talk to my phone is when it is time for the false alarm going over the bridge to school. Every day it goes off, every day I mark it false, and the next day it does the same thing. Supposedly if I tap the watch face it will register that the alarm is false instead of sending the call, but that does not seem to be true in reality.
 
Oh and how very alarming that call and text tend to be! They are not customizeable. "K needs your help" is what it says and what it sends. That's an alarming thing to get, even when you know it is probably a false alarm because it's time for me to head to school. Given my way it would just say "This is an alert from K's embrace" or something of that nature, but they won't do customizeable messages.
 
Less irritating than all of this (but a big issue when I recieved the device, everything else is just so much more), and yet still a problem: the device appears to be designed for an average sized adult wrist, although Empatica has been marketing the device to parents of epileptic children. There is no way this is going to properly fit your average child. The face takes up the entirety of the broad side of my wrist. The elastic strap does go tight enough, but that will not bend the rigid part around. Empatica suggests ankle wear, and I did try this, but the elastic strap cuts into the Achille's tendon and this is really uncomfortable and sucks and I couldn't deal with it, nor do I expect most children could. 
 
Finally, support for the Embrace is truly abysmal. They know my issues with the device, before you ask--I've tried for months to get a return and refund. They'll helpfully condescendingly tell you to do the same thing you just did, but there's no way to exchange a malfunctioning device or return one that doesn't work at all. 
 
In pros it does keep good time, if you can read analog. And I guess it's sort of cyberpunk looking if you are into that. 
 
I'd recommend against wasting your money.

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