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Hands on: Withings Aura review

Sleep tracking device and app for 2014

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Our Early Verdict

For

  • Unobtrusively tracks sleep
  • Promotes sleep through LED light
  • Isn't an uncomfortable wearable

Against

  • May lose sleep over price

Withings Aura gives us the atmospheric vibe that it'll be the best sleep tracking device of 2014 because it's designed to monitor rest and, believe it or not, actively increase the amount of sleep you get throughout the night.

That's better than the handful of sleep tracking gadgets out there right now, from the accurate Jawbone Up bracelet to the less-competent-at-sleep Fitbit Force activity band. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock, a simple iOS app for iPhone, does all of this for a fraction of the price too. But none of these devices nor apps go beyond basic minute-by-minute metrics and scores.

Withings Aura takes sleep tracking to the next REM stage with a two-part system that we tested during our non-stop CES 2014 coverage. Off our feet and onto the demo bed, we found a soft sleep sensor tucked underneath the mattress and an odd-shaped, light emitting alarm clock at our bedside.

The white-cloth sensor was physically flat, but the sleep patterns it detected came to life thanks to real-time data on a dedicated app. It told us about our body movement, breathing cycles and heart rate, even though it was buried 3 inches beneath a mattress.

Withings sleep sensor
The sleep sensor tucks underneath the mattress

Light-emitting alarm clock

The more interesting component is what Withings calls the "bedside device," a light-emitting alarm clock that looks more like a ship's horn-shaped vent.

Glowing from this vent-like opening is multi-colored LED dimming lighting technology, which the company says is "scientifically-validated light." It glows a red or orange melatonin-inducing wavelength at night and transitions to a peaceful blue color to do the opposite by morning.

Soothing sounds also play a part in the bedside device's attempt to mimic the body's circadian rhythm. There are relaxing frequencies at night for falling asleep and stimulating tones upon waking up to start your day off right.

More than just an output of light and sound, Withings enabled the bedside device to record data too. But unlike the cloth sleep sensor, it's screening the sleep environment for noise pollution, room temperature and light levels. If there's something in your room that's disturbing your sleep, it'll be correlated with the restless data of the sleep sensor.

Withings review
The blue light is actually best for waking you up

The price of a good night's sleep

The great thing about Withings Aura is that its bedside device promotes better sleep habits at the same time the sleep sensor underneath the mattress tracks them.

Of course, just as easily as it slips underneath your mattress, it may drain all of the money you have had stashed there due to its high price. The Withings Aura system will cost $299 (about £182, AU$330) when it launches in the spring. A second sensor for your loved one in the same bed can be purchased for $129 (about £79, AU$143).

Its official release date and price hasn't been finalized for the UK and Australia, but we were told the announcement is coming soon for the UK. Possibly in 40 winks.

Withings review
Best CES 2014 demo ever!

Early verdict

Aura could be the one-two punch to cure insomnia we've been dreaming about, or as close as we'll get to that in a consumer-grade gadget.

It doesn't just track and grade sleep, it actively tries to increase the amount of rest you're getting at night with effective light and sound. Also, unlike its wrist-mounted competition, Aura isn't a wearable that is anchored to your body or has to be initiated with the press of a button. Just woke up and didn't remember to wear or press the sleep button on your Fitbit Force? Too Bad.

Withings' solution is always present underneath a mattress. You're not going to lose any sleep over setting up Aura - just over how much you're paying to get a good night's rest.