Thoughts on the Skulpt Chisel

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I ran across the folks from Skulpt at CES this morning. You may recall Skulpt from a previous brief mention here a couple of years ago. That first generation device was a success and now they are out promoting their newer improved device, now called the Skulpt Chisel. Having already met their initial Indiegogo goal they know the demand exists and they were here at CES showing off the Chisel even as their crowdfunding campaign winds down in its final hours over the next couple of days.

The Skulpt products follow the theory of tracking results, not activity. They claim to do this by individually measuring the fat percentage and muscle quality of up to 24 major muscles (think abs, quads, hammys, calves, etc).

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Skulpt can also give you an overall body fat percentage by averaging readings on just the triceps, abs, and quads. In talking to the Skulpt staff they stand solidly behind the accuracy and reliability of their proprietary electrical impedance myography technology. Their EIM method sends tiny amounts of current through your muscle and fat tissues to come up with various measurements and graphic representations of your muscle fitness. The graphic below shows their claims of performance compared to the other methods in use. They still bow to the gold standards of dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, but as they point out, they are a lot more convenient and far less expensive for the average home user. And of course they are a lot less painful than a properly administered skin pinch test.

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I suspect that we don’t have many pure body-builder types here on the blog, but I think the real value to the average DCR reader would be the ability to measure the symmetry, or lack thereof, between your right and left legs for instance. Or, extreme imbalances between your front and back leg muscles as another example. And of course we all would be interested in how well our abs are measuring up.

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Their app not only remotely controls the device but also gives you detailed progress charts and a body heat map showing strongest muscles and those that need work.  This is a bit of a change from the previous generation device where the device also had a screen on it, giving instructions there as well.  Also note that you can indeed share a single device with multiple people (so you and your partner), though it will require a bit of juggling re-pairing the device to your own phone app each time.

Overall an interesting fitness device; but keep in mind their special $99 Indigogo price ends on Friday.  The company says they’re on track to ship devices in March of this year.

January 9, 2016 Update:  Based on some feedback from the comments below, I dropped back by the booth during the closing hours of CES to try the Skulpt out on myself, kind of a guinea pig death wish given the extreme exhausted state of all the booth personnel.  Alas, it was truly painless, though a bit chilly with the cold water spritz that they insist must be repeated every time you do a test.  And it was rock-stupid simple; as in really impossible to mess up, given the app’s step-by-step graphic instructions on proper muscle placement.

I only took readings from my bicep as I really didn’t want to partially disrobe there under the bright lights.  I was a bit disappointed to see that the Skulpt rated me as somewhat less than Athletic, but at least I was well above Average.

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But, just for yucks we did a second test, all of 2 minutes later, and my Muscle Quality somehow mysteriously dropped by 3 points; but as a consolation prize I also apparently reduced my body fat percentage by 1.4%.

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So, the Skulpt is intriguing but we’ll withhold full judgment until more hands-on testing can be done.

And with that, thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out all of the DCR CES 2016 coverage, as well as a slew of updates that were only seen on Twitter.  It was a crazy busy week!

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66 Comments

  1. Fred2

    I was thinking that specific gravity was the gold standard for measuring percentage of body fat. Nobody gets in the tub anymore? Maybe I’m just haven’t kept up with the latest technology. Skulpt looks promising.

    • Randy Cantu

      Fred, Hydrostatic weighing used to be considered the best method…until DEXA came along (depending on which study you read), but they are both still rated as the most accurate methods.

  2. Phil

    I like the look of this.
    The $99 deal has now gone.
    $25 shipping to the UK if you buy two for$179.

  3. Fran

    Looks tempting. Will you be reviewing it, or maybe at least comparing fat % results against smart scale readings?

  4. Unfortunately they do not ship to any country of the European Union. :(

    • The UK is in the EU. We may not always act like it but we definitely are for the moment at least…

    • Fran

      hehe, love/hate has these things…
      But seriously, it took me 3 seconds to click the link and reach for my credit card, only to find no Continental Euro love from Skulpt…Bummer!

    • Michael Zielinski

      Thats o.k. but still no shipment to eg Germany…

    • That’s the reason Borderlinx and other sevices were invented! ;)

      They offer you a shipping address for certain countries (Borderlinx: US, UK and Hong Kong) and then transfer your parcels to your home.

    • Shadowmate

      Thats great info. Cheers.

    • chukko

      There are plethora of similar services (i am using shipito).
      Just google for US package forwarding (or similar). Usually the ones which are not free end up cheaper due to lower postage fees.
      Many of those even provide purchasing assistance for cases when the vendor disallows purchases where the delivery address is from different country than your credit card registered address (they purchase the item for you).

    • Yup, I use one as well (virtually weekly), details on what I do here: link to dcrainmaker.com

  5. Bob

    I bought this based on the information from this site, because I never heard of it. Wish you could get some credit for that.
    Thanks

  6. Rob

    I thought Indiegogo was an indie no-no for DCR? Any thoughts on why they’re using that instead of the other (better respected) crowdfunding platform?

    • It’s not super black and white. Having a company that already has a product in the market (and that I have ownership of), certainly increases viability of a specific campaign significantly.

  7. Simone Chiaretta

    Too bad no shipping to Europe

  8. Patrick

    $99-400 for a skinfold test??

    I’m a RCEP and don’t think I was ever paid more than $15 for one of the hundreds I did.

    • Randy Cantu

      Patrick, I think that is referring to the cost of the caliper device itself. Though you can certainly buy sub-$10 plastic ones (search Amazon), decent accurate models do indeed run on the pricey side.

    • Patrick

      Ahh, my dumb self is catching up now. Yeah, I think ours were ~$200. Enjoy CES!

  9. sebo2000

    Thanks DC!!! just got one because of your article, it looks interesting!!! They should give a cut for advertising:)

    • Mark Auza

      Indeed, I got one yesterday and the campaign went up about $100K from yesterday morning, which happened to coincide with the posting of this article. I’m sure a good portion of that was from DC blog readers.

    • sebo2000

      Finally the unit came on Apr 3, cool tool, but software is buggy.

      1 App doesn’t allow you to delete individual reading in case you made a mistake,
      2. It doesn’t allow you to delete all and start from scratch, you would need new email to setup each time.
      3. Also it doesn’t allow you to change your weight that you setup initially. so if you loose weight after 3 weeks device still thinks you are the same as 3 weeks ago. So if by mistake you measure left side instead of right, or enter wrong weight, there is no way to revert that and system just interpolate the data.
      5. On my body it takes twice to measure each reading ,on my wife only once…and we perform the measurement the same way.
      4.Support is non existent, they didn’t respond to any question, their help file/system is a joke.

      After measuring myself for 2 days with sculpt my average become 25.1%, I have used this calculator: link to bmi-calculator.net and it showed me exactly the same number 25.1%

      $100 is not much, but If I would spend 500 I would be upset.

  10. Dylan

    Have been looking at the Athos wearables as well, and now trying to understand differences (besides obvious form factor). They both use the same electro myography technology, but seems the Athos focuses on real time muscle firing feedback vs the Skulpt measuring after the fact? Also seems the Skulpt gives some more benefits in analysis such as body fat %.

    • One measures electrical activity put out by your nervous system (athos) and the other sends a signal in and looks how the body changes it to see muscle/fat (sculpt). So very different

  11. Strange that they use “accuracy” to describe the Skulpt, and “variability” to describe other methods. I’m suspicious of any company developing algorithms that cannot use consistent statistical terminology.

    On a random note, does the company name (a vowel-free mess) rhyme with “pulpit?”

  12. Joe E

    What is changed from the original except pricing? Not clear to me.

    • Randy Cantu

      Joe, the most notable change was the elimination of the onboard screen and closer integration/dependance on the mobile app; thus bringing about a big decrease in the weight and bulkiness of the original AIM unit.

    • Joe E

      Got it, thanks. That is a reasonable improvement, the onboard screen actually makes using the original a little confusing and I just revert to purely using the App on mine.

    • Mike Wood

      Q – how do you use the App real-time? It seems to me that the app only comes into effect after a measurement-series is complete and then the app is manually synced to the AIM? (This works 33% of the time for me). I would be happy if I could use my AIM more like the Chisel.

    • Also going by comments from them on the site they changed the battery so it charges faster (which I have to say seems very slow on the AIM) and runs longer between charges (though they may just be from not powering a screen)

    • For the remote: link to skulpt.me
      (on both Android and IOS)

  13. Greg Lund

    Within 1-2% accuracy? That’s like 98-99% error! ;)

  14. chris benten

    I had no idea this product was out. I am in. Thanks for the post Ray.

  15. Steve

    I paid 4,- EUR for my caliper. I don’t understand why they indicate a price of $99-$400? Is this the price for a golden caliper with diamonds?

    • Ignoring the price for a second, one of the challenge with calipers that virtually everyone in the industry agrees with is the high level of inaccuracy in general due to people not knowing exactly what their doing.

      And it gets worse, because you go to a club, and someone says “Oh, I’ve done 2,000 measurements”. Yes, you did. You did 2,000 measurements wrong.

      When you talk to scientists & medical folks in this area, it’s a huge pet peeve.

      (Not saying Skulpt is an answer, just an interesting aside I figured I’d note).

  16. James Eaton

    Interesting question, but several questions/points – more on article purpose/format than anything else.

    – Did you actually get to test it at CES?
    – If so, how easy was usage (and how dummy-proof is the current usage, acknowledging that you’re pretty tech savvy)
    – If you didn’t get to use it, what are they providing to give confidence around accuracy ranges?

    I’m asking these points both to find out information, but also to point out that difference in utility for me between this article and the Lumo shorts article. This one reads more of a press release, while the Lumo shorts was a highly interesting read of you actually testing the product along with your thoughts on it.

    • Mike Wood

      I have the AIM version. Picked it up well under $100 from BestBuy (funnily). First I have a couple of issues with it that are definitely addressed with the Chisel. First battery – it drains extremely quickly when not in use. That is you have to charge it either constantly or the day before you want to use it. The chisel is LiPo instead of NiMh they say – plus has no screen to power – although my AIM drains as quickly when the power is off as when its on! Second – syncing to the phone. I often have to re-pair and do a dance of things like re-measure two or three times to get the latest into the phone app. Again – the chisel is always working with the phone. I have other issues where the color coded lights fail to work also.

      OK – repeatability seems pretty good. Readings over a month or two are within 0.3%. Repeating immediately the readings vary only by 0.1% typically. Comparing with my Withings WS-50 – it reads between 9.9 and 10.9% for me. The Skuplt says 11-12.5% (arms & abs), 10% legs and 15-18% glutes (does this make my … look big?!). Going to schedule a Dexa scan soon for a comparison ($70 at UCSF). My target is 10% for my 47yo body and I mainly do cyclocross and MTB XC but do quite a bit of gym work if it has any bearing on my comments.

      Overall I like it. Probably wish there was an upgrade path to the Chisel when it comes out though.

    • Joe E

      Similar experience here with the battery on the AIM. I don’t use it that often and always end up having to charge it before using, battery dies when not using at all.

    • Randy Cantu

      James, The show staff did live demos on themselves while speaking with them; seems pretty foolproof; just moisten the contacts (with the included spray bottle, with tap water), the app gives you a visual display of correct positioning on each muscle and then you trigger the device/reading from the app. The device flashes some indicator lights and provides haptic feedback to confirm completion, a few seconds at most. Not a lot of room for screwing up the reading in my opinion.

      As far as accuracy, it would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison with DEXA and hydrostatic weighing, which they claim to have done to validate the claims on their chart. If I have time I may stop by to see if I can test the unit on myself, though that could be embarrassing if I show up on the wrong end of the scale.

    • Randy Cantu

      Update 1/9/16: So I did go back and self-test the Skulpt. Main post updated, with photos!

  17. Myria

    “I suspect that we don’t have many pure body-builder types here on the blog, […]”

    Well, at least one, and I doubt I’m the only one.

    I do find it odd that so little in the way of athletic gadgets are aimed at gym rats. Pretty much all of the competition-level bodybuilders I know are into quantified self-type stuff in one way or another.

    Anyway, this device is interesting, but as an electrical design engineer with more than a bit of experience in HV applications, design, testing, and FA — I used to run a semiconductor manufacture facility that, among other things, made high-voltage multi-junction diodes for use in voltage multipliers — I’m a bit wary of putting much trust in BIA. Especially as there’s inevitably a lot of black-box aspects going on.

    Meh, still worth considering. Be interesting to hear your thoughts if/when you get your hands on a unit for some in-depth testing.

    • What does high voltage stuff have to do with BIA? From the measurement side of things this looks the same as the AIM so lots of reviews online. (The battery life and Bluetooth issues are very separate)

    • Myria

      BIA uses a high voltage/low current signal to measure impedance. While there are a number of variations, variable frequency test signals, multi-point pathways, et al, at it’s base it all comes down to Ohm’s Law: E=IR.

      Or, in this case, R=E/I.

      Given that skin resistance is fairly high (~10MOhm/cm or greater, if I recall correctly) and that you’re not generally going to use much of anything above to 10µA range, if even that, you’re going to need a fairly high voltage to get any kind of decent measurement from which to calculate overall path resistance.

  18. Teddy

    This seems like a great concept. Unfortunately the Aim seemed to have major problems with the actual device – just take a look at the Amazon reviews – battery life – problems with Bluetooth connectivity and poor customer service.

    Hope this version addresses these issues. Randy or Ray – any thoughts??

  19. Phil A

    Intriguing, but since it only works with Android and IOS and not Windows Phone, I will probably have top pass.

  20. Al

    Do you think your hydration level would effect the readings? Similar to what happens on bathroom scales.

  21. Kyle

    Very interested in this to possibly to possibly replace my calipers. I learned all about the inaccuracies of Bio-Impendence testing (BIA) when I was working on my degree – for years they’ve been considered the easy “ballpark figure” device. Be interesting if their new algorithm truly is as accurate as they claim.

  22. Mike Wood

    As a followup to my battery life/sync issues from the AIM. There was a software update and since then the battery life is totally reasonable (lasts weeks in standby whereas it was like a day or two before). Also using the remote control I don’t have any syncing issues (obviously!). I guess it’s operating like the Chisel now…

  23. Jorge

    That’s my 1 year graph of using Skulpt Aim!! I don’t know how you missed Skulpt Aim on last year!!!

    Everyone looking at Fitbits but missing such important piece of high technology!!

  24. sebo2000

    Finally the unit came on Apr 3, cool tool, but software is buggy.

    1 App doesn’t allow you to delete individual reading in case you made a mistake,
    2. It doesn’t allow you to delete all and start from scratch, you would need new email to setup each time.
    3. Also it doesn’t allow you to change your weight that you setup initially. so if you loose weight after 3 weeks device still thinks you are the same as 3 weeks ago. So if by mistake you measure left side instead of right, or enter wrong weight, there is no way to revert that and system just interpolate the data.
    5. On my body it takes twice to measure each reading ,on my wife only once…and we perform the measurement the same way.
    4.Support is non existent, they didn’t respond to any question, their help file/system is a joke.

    After measuring myself for 2 days with sculpt my average become 25.1%, I have used this calculator: link to bmi-calculator.net and it showed me exactly the same number 25.1%

    $100 is not much, but If I would spend 500 I would be upset.

    • Myria

      I have to echo a lot of what sebo2000 says.

      On the plus side the unit itself seems pretty solid. I’m also reasonably pleased with how consistent the readings have been — +/- 1% for the most part. Is it accurate? I haven’t done a bodpod in a while, but, somewhat to my surprise, it’s pretty much where I’d expect it to be at this point in my training cycle.

      But the software… Gah, all looks and very little usability. Nothing really is explained — Do readings from the “individual” tab get averaged into the daily, or only the quick test? I’ve no idea. Why is there no option to do each muscle group in sequence without having to tap on the image? There’s no configurability, no ability to edit readings, and no real way I can see to handle multiple users — not even a “guest mode”, a la Quardio.

      That, and MQ appears to be useless. My ‘MQ’ is 100, but given that’s apparently the end of the scale it isn’t like that’s going to be useful information going forward.

      Anyway, I’m cautiously hopeful that going forward things will improve as they work on the app. As things stand, the unit seems solid, the tech itself may or may not be (need more time and more comparisons to Bodpod/Dexa/et al results to know for sure) but is interesting, but the software seriously needs work.

      A lot of work.

    • Sebastian

      Apparently last night they have released update with Guest mode. yey!

      Now, how do I delete all bad measurements I did just to play with the unit to get familiar with it, I even scanned my foot as my abs:)

      Second on the unit quality, feels solid.

    • Arderis

      I got mine this week, and I’m really disappointed in the app. I’ve emailed the company with my concerns, but based on other people’s posts (here and elsewhere) I’m not optimistic about receiving a reply.
      Specifics:
      -The device/app refuses to take readings on certain of my muscle groups…for example, it will read left quad, but not right quad. If I start a test for the left quad but actually scan the right one, it works. Triceps, forearms, and abs have also been glitchy like this. The app says “let’s try again!” and the device goes red.
      -Frequent crashes when the refusals/errors happen.
      -Mis-read muscle groups have convinced the app I have -10.4% (yes negative) body fat and 100 MQ, recommending 2700 calories per day. Right……
      -No ability to update profile for weight.

      NOTE: I just found how to see progress over time! Tap the percentage or MQ score in the center of the pop-up box for a particular muscle group. Success!

    • Gordon

      I received my Aim 2 this week and I’m still learning how to best use it. My initial concern was the apparent lack of tracking progress, but thanks to Arderis for the hint on clicking tapping the MQ score for this!

      Re change in weight – I was also concerned that I input my weight initially and sae no way to change it afterwards. However, I see that my iPhone Health app, which is connected to the Skulpt app, allows Sculpt to read my weight data, so I presume that I just need to keep my weight up to date on Apple Health.

    • Sebastian

      Good news, Skuplt just today released software that now allows you to delete individual measurements, Kudos, as I had tons of totally wrong measurements. The only one thing that is left is weight update, if in theory that is used in any calculations, if it is not, then the they not have to do it.
      We finally have Guest mode for man and woman, and deletions of measurements.

  25. Giles R

    I got mine and I’m pretty disappointed.

    I am a fat, strong cyclist with a fat gut and strong legs. my fat % is around 30% on my “abs” and on my quads. Shoulder fat % is 20…
    Quad MQ is 65 (I thought might have been higher – I can do 20 reps of 440KG on leg press).
    Left ab MQ is 12, right ab is 61 despite many attempts to get better readings
    Sometimes Leg MQ is in the teens, most of the time in the 60s.

    The weight thing is bad too. Currently I am losing around 4lb a week so it will quickly become very inaccurate. I wish they integrated with withings.

    This morning I tried to do another measure and phone didn’t seem to connect to the chisel at all.

  26. By the way Ray – have you seen that they have your logo on their site associated with the quote:

    “Athletes could make better decisions about which muscles to target during their workouts”

    link to skulpt.me

    Implies to me that you are recommending their product but based on this post it doesn’t seem that you are. Makes me wonder exactly what all those other publications have said about them…

    • Just reading this now (for some reason I wasn’t auto-subscribed to comment notifications on this post).

      The way I read the banner is, I think they just use my logo below it, as part of a general ‘places that have talked about it’, next to the CNET, Wall Street Journal, etc…

      In this case, neither I or Randy (who wrote this post) say the words “Athletes could make…”, or any variant thereof. It appears to come from CNN.

      Or am I misreading it?

    • Well, I didn’t necessarily assume that exact quote came from your site as there are many logos but it does imply to me that you have given the sculpt your seal of approval which I think is misleading. (perhaps I am wrong).
      As far as I know this is the only article you’ve written about the skulpt and the conclusion seemed to be it needs more hands on testing.
      I really just wanted to make you aware. If you’re happy with how they have presented it then great!

  27. ian

    People please read the endless list of disappointed users on play store. and yes I too am one of them . I was so disappointed I went and bought a state of the art Bodymetrix pro 1500 pounds and I have no regrets it’s a truly beautiful device, it’s ultrasound scan haha.

  28. Ken

    After 5 days, I couldn’t get the unit to scan (it would stay red), even after adding water, changing positions, and pressing harder (as suggested by their website). Also, the BF% numbers are all over the place. This unit’s going back to Best Buy.