An AI Invasion into Fitness Innovation

Background

Today’s society is becoming increasingly interwoven with technology. This development is especially beneficial in the health and wellness aspect of daily lives. I was made aware of this fact back in 2015, when a student from my town that was playing football at Tabor Academy made the news–an Apple watch had very likely saved his life. Paul Houle Jr., then 18, had been playing football out in the heat when he started having irregular back pain and heavy breathing. He went back to his dorm to go take a nap when he noticed on his watch that his heart rate, two hours after he stopped playing, was 60-80bpm over average. With a resting heart rate of 145, Paul knew he had to alert his coach, who got him immediate medical attention. He was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can be associated with playing sports in high heat. Paul’s muscles had begun to break down, releasing a toxin that was causing some of his vital organs to begin to shut down. Thankfully, Paul is fully recovered and living a healthy life now, but that incident shocked me into recognizing the range of benefits that integrating technology into our active lives could bring.

apple watch sensor.jpg

Apple Watch heart monitor interface

ABCNews video can be found here: http://abcn.ws/1FtUnSy

Wearable Technology, Now

Although it’s only been a few years since Paul found invaluable reward in investing in Apple’s wearable technology, endless companies are now employing that technology and artificial intelligence in a variety of services. One of those companies is Fitbit. Fitbit wristbands can be seen all over campus, on the arms of people who want a wearable technology that tracks steps, sleep, activity, heart rate, and more. Fitbit offers a multitude of wristbands, a couple smartwatches, an integrated app and a variety of accessories. The most recent product is the Fitbit Charge 3.

In addition to their already impressive range of offerings, the company has recently teamed up with Google to use machine learning on customers’ fitness data. Fitbit is going to be using Google’s Cloud Healthcare API to make it easier to combine individual exercise data with e-medical records. This decision will streamline the process of updating customer’s profiles and allow the technology to better analyze its data. Essentially, the partnership with allow Fitbit to utilize Google Cloud’s existing infrastructure and security capabilities to speed up the process of widespread population data analysis. Fitbit’s Health Solutions wants to bridge the gap between people and the healthcare system. The company wants to unlock personalized care, making it easier for doctors and clinicians to work with patients. Data will be able to be handled more securely and offer a plethora of insights not able to be obtained before. Further, the integration with Google and the company’s AI/ML abilities will lead to algorithms able to perform predictive analytics. Fitbits will be able to determine who needs help first; more people will be able to be saved through wearable tech.

3bf65a15b05851ed3d6c5d07d078eb91_original.jpg

Vi, the AI Personal Trainer

Another company making waves in wearable technology is Vi, an artificial intelligence personal trainer. The technology involves bio-sensing headphones that coach people while collecting data on user physiology. Vi checks in with users while they’re training: 1) to improve the quality of their workout and 2) to better improve Vi’s machine learning. Users employ voice commands to check the progress of their workouts, make phone calls, and play music. Like the Fitbit, it tracks distance, steps, and heart rate, all in real time. Based on this information, Vi can readjust and edit workouts to best suit users’ needs.

 

Back in July, the New-York based company raised $20 million dollars to continue expanding. Vi wants to focus on two areas:

  1. Improving personalization, real-time feedback, and intelligent voice/audio content

The real-time feedback mentioned above is especially helpful in that users are kept accountable, according to the goals that they set. When customers purchase the headphones, they download an app wherein they enter personal data such as age, fitness level, and goals. The app can generate personalize plans and exercises for the user and then track their activity in real time. Vi generates playlists through Apple Music or Spotify that match up with the suggested pace for the run. In addition to that, if Vi notices that the user is moving a bit below suggested pace, she’ll politely nudge the runner to pick up the pace. All of these factors make for a tech-based training experience never seen before. That might be why Vi’s Kickstarter campaign a couple years ago became the site’s most funded Kickstarter for a fitness wearable.

2. Offering additional fitness and wellness activities

The goal is to continue to scale the technology in the future; the company wants to reach more people and provide even more accessible personal wellness. Right now, Vi offers support for third-party services like Google Fit and Apple HealthKit. There isn’t much concrete information out on proposed additional fitness and wellness activities, but it will be interesting to see how the new business continues to develop and potentially integrate its technology into other platforms.

Conclusion

So far, the health and wellness field has seen massive strides in regards to new technology and innovation. With partnerships like Fitbit and Google and never-before-seen technology like Vi’s AI personal trainer, it’s tough to predict exactly what’s coming next. Regardless, the world is moving ever-quicker and ever-closer to a merging of personal information and machine automation. It will be fascinating to see how the fitness and wellness facets of society further adapt to the change.

 

 

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

9 thoughts on “An AI Invasion into Fitness Innovation

  1. I remember hearing the story about Paul in the news, that is crazy you know him personally! After hearing the story, I also saw so much value in wearables, because in that scary scenario, his Apple watch definitely played a role in saving his life. I obviously am aware of the Apple watch and Fitbit, but I had never heard of Vi. As I often get sick of hearing the same playlist while I run, I am super excited by the idea of music suggestions through Spotify/Apple Music to set a certain pace. It really seems like Vi can help people reach their health and fitness goals, whereas (in my opinion) sometimes an Apple watch can be more distracting than it is helpful, and a Fitbit can be seen more as a fashion statement and impersonal fitness tracker. Although I see the value in all three wearables, I am super excited to see where Vi will go in terms of merging AI and machine learning into the health and wearable technology space that is more “personal” and truly pushes the user to work harder. Great post Grace!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Grace,
    I love to hear about the new ways that companies are using technology to keep people active and healthy! Vi sounds like an interesting company that has some creative ideas for the future of fitness. I like the notion of having an AI personal trainer who can not only help tailor exercises as you workout, but also shift training as you progress. The safety aspect is very important too, as you mentioned with Paul. There are certainly some positive technological advancements coming our way and I’m looking forward to trying them out!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know much about wearables for health outside of Apple and Fitbit until reading this. Thanks for sharing! I agree that the future of these technologies will be influential in how people track and manage their health, and Paul is a perfect early example of that. These technology integrated health products can even reach the level of helping someone with diabetes track their blood sugar constantly. One of my friends has an app that has live updates on their blood sugar and has helped them countless times. This kind of tech isn’t so unusual now but would’ve been unbelievable 10 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing, Grace! The story about Paul really goes to show that technology, especially personal health technology is not just a fashion fad but rather a necessity. One of the points that you mentioned, which I thought was very interesting was how Vi is matching the correct music pace to match the pace of your run. When I run, I oftentimes notice myself running too slow or fast depending on the music I am listening to. By having this feature, Vi can help active people maximize their workout in a simple and enjoyable way. Additionally, there has been a rise of workout classes like Soul Cycle and Yoga. In these classes, the instructors play music that matches the pace of the workout. It will be interesting to see how Vi attacks this market to expand their customer base.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Grace, I love this blog!! Health technology has always interested as it is not only a way to improve workouts but to also save lives. I’ve noticed that more and more fitness companies have incorporated statistics into the workouts. For instance, Orange Theory Fitness provides all class attendees with heart rate monitors to coach them to appropriate levels. It is exciting that exercising can be highly personalized in a group setting and I think that many other fitness companies will take advantage of data to improve customer experience. Overall, really fascinating topic! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kerri! I didn’t know that about Orange Theory Fitness, but I find that fascinating! The level your heart rate is at really has an impact on the type of workout you’re getting so I’m impressed to hear about that.

      Like

  6. Great post, Grace! Vi sounds so cool and I think we have barely tapped the potential of AI as a personal trainer. I wonder if in the future Alexa or other AI systems will take on this role as well as the other functions they currently serve. Do you think we will have one AI assistant that follows us through multiple smart devices or will our AI assistants be specialized and segmented depending on the situation (working out vs. at home)?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Awesome post, Grace! Fitness is yet another industry where technology has brought a bunch of innovation with more to come in the next few years. As you mentioned, Fitbit and Vi rely heavily on data to bring value to users in the form of analysis, advice, and motivation. However, I wonder the value of this data for Fitbit and Vi. At the very least, these two companies can use this data to improve their services and see trends among users. Even more, I bet these companies advertise new products/services to consumers with this data. As you said, Fitbit shares its data with Google’s Cloud Healthcare API to integrate fitness and healthcare. I wonder Fitbit and Vi share user data with any other companies, and if so, what is the limit on this sharing?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the great post! I can see a lot of applications for this tech especially in the more elderly demographic. It’d be nice for people to be able to track their parents’ health and will enable more people to live alone when they’re older and avoid moving to nursing homes with full-time nurses taking care of them. Your point about Fitbit deciding who needs help is also really interesting and raises new ethical concerns. Will we trust or allow AI to make those kinds of decisions based on data?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s