Would you like virtual personal trainers helping you out? Could your workout routine use a non-judgmental, yet critical observer to your routines and tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it for your maximum benefit? The gamification of exercise might not be a novelty, but virtual reality use in personal fitness is still in its early development stage. Fitness will now take new meaning as VR and AR connect to the fitness business. Get ready, virtual reality will create the world’s first immersive exercise class.
Here’s a quick look at some companies that are jumping in, Pure Fitness from Pure Group has launched an ‘Immersive Fitness’ spinning class in its Hong Kong studio. The program features videos of cinematic quality which are projected onto the screens that are placed on three walls of the studio. An instructor gives signals which are synchronized with the music and graphics. The virtual reality fitness spinning class imitates cycling through different landscapes which includes a futuristic space city and a steep glacier.
Daniel Mestre, senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research said “Coupling exercise to virtual reality results in a more enjoyable experience by contextualizing the exercise. It notably distracts the participant from exercise-induced pain.” With the development of virtual reality headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift (jobs at Oculus), Project Morpheus and more, the fitness industry which had saturated, is now getting some new opportunities.
Runtastic (jobs at Runtastic), a fitness tracking app unveiled its software for Oculus Rift. Runtastic for the Oculus Rift is in its early demo version. Widerun has developed a cycling kit that will work with Samsung Gear VR. The users will be able to cycle along a customized track in the confines of their room, yet feel as if they are outdoors. Widerun is raising funds on Kickstarter right now.
Here’s a great story about one of the founders of Y‑Combinator backed company called Smartspot, which has just raised $1.85 million from Khosla Ventures and Signalfire. Moawia Eldeeb and his co-founder Joshua Augustin have their Smartspot system in 10 gyms already and are trying to build out a new personal trainer program.
Moawia Eldeeb grew up with his family on a village farm bordering the Nile, his father, who had been applying every year for a green card for the past 15 years, fortunately had won one in the lottery. They left everything they had ever known behind and moved to New York. In the beginning, Eldeeb went to school for a few weeks. But the family needed money, so he started working 12-hour shifts at a pizza shop to earn about $20 a day in Astoria, Queens.
The work shifts kept Eldeeb from attending middle school regularly. During high school, bad luck hit again. The house his family was living in burned down. They ended up in a Red Cross shelter. But there were benefits from being in a shelter, for the first time in a long time, the family didn’t have to worry about rent. Food stamps were paying for things to eat. Eldeeb could start to think about other things like school.
He was a scrawny kid from Queens, but started going to a free gym in Harlem. He started to catch up on school by watching Khan Academy videos. He finished 11th and 12th grade in a single year, then went to Queens College and got an applied math degree in 2 1/2 years. He heard about a transfer program to Columbia and made the switch to study computer science. Throughout his entire time in college, Eldeeb would work as a personal trainer, using the skills he learned in that Harlem gym to coach others and make extra money.
In Columbia’s computer science program, Eldeeb would also end up meeting his co-founder Joshua Augustin, who was studying computer vision. Because personal training had been so transformative for Eldeeb, he wanted to figure out a way to make it more accessible to everyone else. In big cities like New York and San Francisco, trainers can cost $100 or more an hour. It’s prohibitively expensive. They built a set-up that mixes a Kinect (jobs at Xbox Kinect) camera and a large flatscreen TV. It records your work out and can point out when your angles are off or if your posture is misaligned. It also has timers so you can track and control how long you rest between reps.
“When I was a personal trainer, I could see how almost everyone else in the gym was doing the exercises wrong. They couldn’t afford a trainer, and the whole dream here is to make training more affordable to the American population… This is the first time where personal training is not with a person standing next to you,” Eldeeb said.
More importantly, Smartspot keeps video logs so that if you want a personal trainer to review your progress, you can do it more affordably. With Smartspot’s systems, Eldeeb and Augustin think that this would make it easier for people to rely on trainers from other parts of the country or even the world to review their progress, correct their technique and motivate them. They sell the equipment for $2,500 to gyms. Gym members can use it for free, but if they want additional personal training, they can pay a fraction of the cost of a normal personal trainer to have one review their workouts and coach them on technique.
Wow, now I want to go run out and get a good workout going, I think this is just the beginning, Virtual Fitness will probably because so commonplace and with the computer aided performance guides, you’ll be in amazing shape in no time, just stop eating like a pig. As for the technology, the media industry, advertisers have a whole new way of getting in front their customers.