As break into a new decade, we look at the AI-driven technologies that will forge new paths from our pandemic fitness routines
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If 2020 was the year of the smartwatch, then 2021 is the year of fitness autonomy. Helping this along are these core technologies and their facilitators catering to users who want to be ‘less gadget-oriented but still fairly digital’.
We look back on the AI-driven technologies that helped locked down people look at fitness differently, and how these innovations are a precursor to 2021.
The personal fitness industry was revolutionised when VR was brought into the mix more than eight years ago. Since then we’ve seen gamified fitness but what about fittified gaming? Oculus welcomed Supernatural in April 2020, a cardio-heavy, on-demand workout adventure. The game serves up daily personalised full-body workouts and expert coaching from real-world trainers. Sweat to music from popular artists and visit beautiful photorealistic landscapes. It lets you track your progress with the companion app, pair your heart rate monitor, schedule workouts, and follow friends for some healthy competition.
What do we see happening in 2021? Experiences like Supernatural will be channelling more social experiences into their repertoire, whether you want to have your trainer hold you accountable or compete with friends.
Augmented Reality as a tech class is not as overwhelming as its big brother, Virtual Reality. AR has made its way into many home workouts because it feeds back real-time information about what’s going on in the user’s body while working out, as well as helping track how far they’ve come. Admittedly an AR fitness regimen, while fun, can take an extra level of engagement upfront to help people power through the tough first stages before exercising feels rewarding on its own.
AR glasses such as Google Glass have been a virtual friend to users through third-party apps like Race Yourself, which lets users keep track of time, distance, and calories with a quick glance at the Glass screen — it’s all very Ready Player One — helpful for even the most novice runner. The app has some in-built scenarios, too, such as racing against giant boulders, zombies, fire, virtual friends, and even an oncoming train.
Love working out in front of the mirror but without the hassles of a wearable? Mirror, an AR-fuelled ‘nearly invisible home gym’ that Lululemon acquired in 2020, offers more than 50 genres of 5-60 minute classes ranging from absolute beginner to expert levels. Advanced camera technology and proprietary algorithms help deliver in-workout adjustments based on the user’s goals, preferences, and personal profile.
You may have encountered fitness chatbots in apps such as Nike Training, Cure.Fit and Sense Bio. These AI bots guide users through different workouts, based on intensity level, and also provide a suitable diet chart to be followed as per the selected fitness goal. Intelligent chatbots can also help optimise personal performance by sending tips and suggestions as per the tracked performance analytics.
One such app Fit N Simple has been doing well in the messenger marketing / fitness crossover. The company started out trying to cut through the noise in this sub-industry. Through its Instagram account, founder Austin Witte observed that personalised and real-time interaction would better engage his audience. Favoured by a number of international startups, ManyChat became Fit N Simple’s go-to. “Flow Builder [by ManyChat] was a game-changer for me. When you have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, it’s hard to deliver a customised message. ManyChat’s features made sure my subscribers had a real, personalised experience,” says Austin in a past interview.
Artibot.AI, a chatbot server created with gym owners, fitness facilities and fitness trainers in mind. This lets you make a chatbot that can schedule a workout session with a client, allow them to pay you in advance, and also provide any personal information you require.