Palo Alto, California-based Lumo Body Tech, makers of the Lumoback posture and activity tracking device, announced plans this week to crowdfund its next generation wearable, Lumo Lift. Lift is considerably smaller than its predecessor, and instead of taking the form factor of a belt, the new device uses a magnetic clasp to clip to the wearer's clothing.
"We learned that many of our existing customers wanted a smaller form factor and one that gave them the option of a hidden [device] or even a near invisible one. The other feedback we got was that many of them wanted to focus on upper body slouching," Lumo's CEO Monisha Perkash told MobiHealthNews in an interview. "So Lumo Lift was built with those two desired goals in mind: something that is small and can be discreetly worn and something that is more sensitive at picking up upper body slouching."
Lumo Lift, which is meant to be clipped to clothing on the wearer's upper body, will cost between $59 and $79 during the crowdfunding campaign and more than that at retail. The company aims to begin shipping the device by the summer. Lumoback, which the company plans to continue selling at its $149 pricepoint is the pricier of the two devices, and is worn close to the hips with a belt-like strap.
"Different people have different reasons for wanting to improve their posture," Perkash said. "For some it is lower back pain or neck pain, for others it is appearance and confidence. A third bucket is focused on training and physical fitness."
Lumo Lift will appeal especially to those concentrated on improving their appearance and their self-confidence, Perkash said. Some studies show that better posture can improve confidence, she said.
"Research out of Harvard Business School shows -- and we have done our own white paper compiling this -- how holding yourself in an open, upright position cause surges of hormones that not only make you look more powerful, but make you feel it, too," Perkash said.
The original Lumoback, which the company also crowdfunded was a peel-and-stick sensor that wearers stuck to their lower backs.
"The reason we decided to start with Lumoback and designed for the lower back was we knew we wanted to have a single sensor solution," Perkash said. "In talking to spine experts -- spine physicians and physical therapists -- we tried to understand what was the most important thing that a person could do to have proper posture. What we learned was having a neutral pelvis serves as a very strong foundation for the rest of your spine. In other words, the rest of your spine is more likely to stack naturally on itself. That's why we started with the lower back so we could be more in tune with what was happening in the pelvis area."
Perkash said potential users said they liked the concept of a peel-and-stick sensor but it turned out to be a problem for many. The band-aid-like patch attracts lint, gets "gooey", and one other reason:
"A lot of people, apparently, have hairy lower backs and so the prospect of ripping this adhesive off your lower back wasn't very appealing either," Perkash said. "So we threw that out. Then we thought maybe we could use a clip as another way to get readings from the lower back so we could monitor for a neutral pelvis. So we thought about having these clips that go onto the waistband of your underwear. Your underwear is right there -- it's close to the skin. But what we learned from user testing there is there's just this weirdness factor -- clipping this thing to your underwear? It's just weird. Secondly, for a lot of our testers, the clip would fall into the toilet. That's not the association we wanted our product to have."
Perkash said moving to the upper body gave Lumo "a lot more real estate to work with" because users can tuck the device under their collars or clip it pretty much anywhere in the chest and shoulder area -- assuming clothes weren't too loose fitting.
Lumo aims to raise at least $200,000 in preorders for the new Lumo Lift via a crowdfunding campaign hosted on its own website. The company plans to use proceeds from the campaign to fund the initial production run of the new device.
Lumo also released its first Android app for the Lumoback a few weeks ago and its devices are now distributed through Amazon as well as the Apple Store both here in the US and in the UK.
The company still has its eye on the potential of FDA regulated Lumo devices for back pain management in the future. An FDA 510(k) would allow Lumo to make claims about their product's efficacy that they can't today.
"It's definitely on our roadmap. It could also help us better integrate into the healthcare channel potentially as a medically reimbursed device," Perkash said. "As it is, already a lot of our customers are coming to us through referrals from physicians, physical therapists, and chiropractors. These patients are paying out of pocket for it now, but we see a scenario where any of these Lumo products could become part of your management of back pain with potential medical reimbursement. Part of it has just been word of mouth where patients are helping us educate medical professionals, but recently we have been going to physical therapy and chiropractic conferences."
Perkash also said that one as yet unnamed major hospital system is piloting Lumo's devices with their employees. If successful, the pilot could evolve to providers using Lumo devices with their patients in the future, too.