Review: Introducing Oura Ring, The Fitness Tracker of the Future

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UPDATE 2017/early 2018:  We’re thrilled to announce that Oura has designed a new version of the ring, and it’s sexier, sleeker, more powerful, more feature-rich, and it’s got a week-long battery life! It’s smaller and there’s a range of gorgeous new designs and colors. You can get $50 off all models of your new ring with code NEWBAREFOOT. Pre-order here.

The new Oura ring will have a slew of awesome new features, including:

• Advanced sleep and recovery tracking: notes and tags, calendar view, comparing contributor trends to see correlations between different factors.
• More personalized messages: based on the user’s long-term data in the cloud
• Circadian alignment and chronotype detection: finding what bedtime and wake-up times lead to best sleep quality and readiness
• Tracking restful moments on-demand: including naps, meditation breathing or relaxation exercises and post-exercise recovery tracking

UPDATE 5/2017: We're got some great new feature updates. Read on for more! 

I am in love. With a wearable. It's been ten months that the Oura Ring and I have been inseparable — ever since the first day I touched its sculptural curves, slept with it all night, consulted its morning wisdom and kept it on my finger all day long — through a shower, yoga, laptop work, a long hike. I've gotten to the point with Oura where I feel naked when it's not on my finger, bewildered when I cannot consult its oracle-like wisdom on my phone every morning. It knows me better than any wearable I've ever had. It cares about my well-being in the deepest sense. It tells me what to do, and I listen. Let me explain.

I've been obsessed with wearable tech ever since I was a kid in the 1980s, and I had a calculator watch with a secret game mode that I thought was the coolest thing ever (it took decades for hipsters to catch up). I've been trying pretty much every fitness tracker and sleep monitor that's come out in the wearable tech explosion of the past few years — Jawbone, Basis, Zeo, FitBit, Garmin, Pebble Time, Apple Watch — but I've always been underwhelmed. I've always felt like there was something missing (and in most cases, a lot missing). Plus, I hate wearing stuff around my wrists, especially when I'm sleeping. And don't get me started on plastic wristbands.

Enter Oura. You know all those words that are thrown around in the tech space so often that they've become pretty much meaningless? Next-level, game-changing, bleeding-edge, revolutionary, disruptive, badass, next-gen, best-of-class, best-of-breed, life-changing, world-changing? Well, Oura is ACTUALLY ALL OF THOSE THINGS. Yes, for real. You should probably just skip to the bottom of this review (love letter, actually) right now and order one, because you'll be wearing one in the next five years anyhow, and wouldn't you like to be one of the first? But I get it, maybe you'd like to learn more. Here we go ....

Oura's next-level badassery comes from a few hugely important factors.

1) Oura measures motion, temperature, and heart rate dynamics. But this is just the beginning of the story. Because Oura lives on the finger, rather than the wrist, it is able to gather data with a level of precision only attainable in clinical settings (until now), because the signal strength from the finger is 100 times stronger than from the wrist. This precision allows for an incredible depth and breadth of data. The heartbeat is a powerful source of nuanced health information that goes way beyond beats per minute, but in order to unlock this information, we need the level of resolution that only Oura (and lab-grade equipment) can provide.

2) So there's a lot of data. But here's where things really start to get interesting. Oura doesn't just spew a bunch of ugly charts and graphs and arbitrary goals at you, like you're a robot in a Skinner box. No, Oura gives you an elegant, friendly, and personalized set of recommendations every morning that are based on your actual patterns — past and present. It actually learns about you, through a highly sophisticated AI engine. The Oura phone app interface is as gorgeous and human-centered as the industrial design of the ring itself. But we'll get to aesthetics later.

3) Oura has many virtues. But the core of its offering — and what makes it so profoundly useful (and dare I say game-changing) — is the "readiness" score, a composite number based on a number of factors and a lot of data gathered over time. It takes into account sleep (quality and quantity), physical activity (intensity and quantity), heart rate variability (HRV), body temperature, resting heart rate, and many other factors. What's so important about readiness? It allows us to understand when we're getting out of balance, so that we can make specific changes to our lifestyles before we court inflammation and illness. If your autonomic nervous system is out of balance, you're going to suffer in the long term. It's a massive paradigm shift in the fitness space to start thinking about readiness as an overarching goal, rather than about pounds lost or calories eaten or steps taken. Whether you're a hardcore athlete or a sedentary desk-worker, Oura will learn your specific patterns and habits, and it will focus on helping you attain optimal readiness every day. Balance is key to a healthy life, and Oura works tirelessly to help you attain it.


 4) It used to be that people would brag about how little sleep they got, as though it was a badge of some sort to be chronically sleep-deprived yet still "functioning." But now we know better — the foundation of good health is good sleep, and if we fall short, we're hurting ourselves on many levels. The sleep-hacking space is happening, with blue-blockers, blackout shades, screen dimmers, sleep potions, etc. And now the missing piece — lab-quality sleep data in the privacy of your bedroom — is finally here. Oura brings a new level of precision to sleep tracking, gathering data all night long, and digesting it all into a detailed report the next morning. REM sleep, deep sleep, light sleep, awakenings, time to fall asleep, time of lowest heart rate (earlier is better) — it's all there, beautifully presented. Oura can even figure out your chronotype when it has enough data — when is your personal ideal bedtime? — and it will help keep you honest after one too many late nights.

5) Yes, Oura will actually help keep you honest about your habits and behavior. This is one of my favorite dimensions of the product. I am not above being told what to do by my phone. Maybe in another lifetime 100,000 years ago I would have been able to live effortlessly in balance with the rhythms of nature, and my own nature, but in this distorted modern world, I need all the help I can get. Oura tells me when I've gone to bed too late, when I've had too much screen time before bed. It tells me when I've eaten too much, or too late. It tells me when I've been sitting too long, and sends me prompts in real-time to get up and stretch my legs. It tells me when I've ovulated (subtle temperature shifts), when I'm getting sick (less subtle temperature shifts), and when I'm pushing myself way too hard and need to stop exercising so much. It sends words of specific praise when I've improved, and words of concern when I'm slipping. It's like having a 24/7 life coach with superpowers, except I don't have to talk to anyone — it's just a little band around my finger.

6) But what a band! The Oura ring is drop-dead gorgeous. A triumph of Scandinavian design (it was invented in Finland), Oura's smooth seamless contours echo a Henry Moore sculpture or a polished precious stone. Oura looks like nothing you've ever seen, except maybe in a fantasy of the kind of post-human future where everyone is impossibly stylish and sleek. I get compliments on this thing all the time — and that's before people have any idea what it does. The ring is super-comfortable to wear — it's preternaturally smooth, and it's subtly asymmetrical to conform to the contours of the hand. It's made of zirconia, and it's finished on every surface so it's scratchproof and waterproof. It even does well when dropped. I chose the Mirror Black finish, which looks slightly grey and metallic, like a piece of hematite. It's also available in oh-so-mod Arctic White, and understated matte Stealth Black. The aesthetics of the Oura ring leave all other wearables way behind. No flashing lights, no neon colors, no LED display, no plastic anything. I also love that it's completely unisex/all-gender — the recent crop of wearables "for women" (in the shape of dainty leaves, or blingy cocktail rings) are as off-putting to me as the notorious pink Bic for Her pens. You'll want to wear the Oura ring constantly, for every sort of activity and occasion, based on its look and feel alone.

Not only is the Oura ring next-level in every way, IT ITSELF is becoming more next-level all the time. Oura is very new to the marketplace (I bought it through a Kickstarter, and it's only recently available to everyone), so it's constantly releasing firmware updates and app updates that make it more feature-rich, more precise, more useful, more customized. I predict that Oura is going to dominate the wearables space in years to come; it's so advanced, and so profoundly helpful. Every other wearable I've tried has fallen by the wayside after a month or two, but Oura feels like a part of me after ten months of continuous use. The creators of Oura have given us all an incredible gift. Prepare to fall in love.


Since I wrote this review, the Oura engineers have been very busy innovating. They've just introduced two new features, both of which are way useful for very different reasons: HRV (heart rate variability) and temperature tracking. Oura was measuring these behind the scenes for a while, but now both are visible in daily charts within the Readiness zone of the app. So you can track these over time, just as you track the details of your sleep and activity. 


Heart rate variability (HRV), the time between heartbeats, is a critical but ill-understood metric of health. Study of HRV is in its infancy, but there's a lot of excitement around this 'new' metric among athletes and biohackers because it offers a unique window into your general health and fitness levels. A low HRV could happen for a million different reasons — overtraining, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, etc. But in general, the higher your HRV, the more resilient you are. Tracking HRV daily (and modifying behavior accordingly) is a powerful way to stay in balance, but there hasn't been a great way for people to measure HRV daily — until now! Before Oura, you had to wake up at the same time every morning, moisten a heart rate monitor, strap it on your chest, lie down, and wait for a minute while trying to breathe normally with a clammy band around your chest. HRV is really sensitive to subtle changes in measurement conditions, and this kind of baroque procedure allowed all kinds of noise to creep in. Oura changes all this — it measures your HRV throughout the night while you're sleeping, with a level of accuracy that matches lab-quality ECG machines. No clammy band, no separate app. Just a single reliable number every morning, which you can track visually over time. Did I mention how much I love my Oura ring? 

Temperature Tracking 

Yeah, this feature is great at confirming whether you're sick or not. But for anyone who ovulates, and cares about when they ovulate, this feature is magic. For years, I've been taking my temperature every morning to track ovulation (progesterone rises after ovulation, and causes a temperature shift for the second half of the menstrual cycle.) But now the Oura ring measures my temperature automatically, and shows me when exactly my temperature rise happens every month. Yes, it generates its own charts, so you can see exactly when temps start to rise, and confirm that ovulation has happened. No more forgetting to take your temperature when you wake up late, no more obsessing about temperature fluctuations at different times, no more beeping thermometers. Oura does it all for you while you sleep. If you've been charting your temps daily, you are going to be ecstatic about this feature. And if you're wondering why you might want to track ovulation, here is a life-changing public service announcement: get to this website immediately and learn about the Fertility Awareness Method. Basically, if you chart your cycles properly, you'll be able to tell exactly when in your cycle it's impossible to get pregnant, and when it's possible. It's not the flaky rhythm method, and it's 99.6% effective as birth control if you're tracking properly. Which you are totally capable of doing, if you're reading this review. You're welcome. 

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