AI-powered personal trainer knows exactly when to crack the whip

10 pictures

Vi combines sensor data with cloud-based data crunching and AI, so as to provide the user with coaching that is personalized to their physiology and capability in real-time

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If fitness wearables were personal trainers, many would sit at the end of your running route and tell you what you've just done, or give advice along the way that wasn't designed for you. One new wearable, however, monitors you throughout and provides tailored coaching in real-time. Her name is Vi.

Created by LifeBEAM, Vi is claimed to be the "first true artificial intelligence (AI) personal trainer." Moov, whose AI-powered Now device we reviewed earlier this year, might reasonably refute that claim, but, even at a glance, Vi appears to be the more sophisticated of the two.

Like the Moov Now, Vi tracks location, speed and cadence, but it also has biosensors in the earphones that track heart rate and heart rate variability. And whereas the Now takes the form of a wearable band that connects to a smartphone that in turn connects to earphones via which audio info is provided, Vi is just the pair of earphones.

Currently Vi caters for various types of running and running environments, but LifeBEAM intends to expand this to cover a range of other training activities. The 43-g (1.5-oz) device combines sensor data with cloud-based data crunching and AI, so as to provide the user with moment-by-moment coaching that is personalized to their physiology and capability.

Over time, Vi learns about the user and develops its coaching accordingly. In creating Vi, LifeBEAM's aim was to take all the data that fitness wearables typically produce and use it to create a useful expert coach that can actually tell the user what they should be doing.

Among the other factors that Vi tracks are weather, location, elevation, motion and speed. It also pulls in data from fitness tracking apps, such as Google Fit and HealthKit. Based on all the data available, it provides "actionable insights," such as for weight loss optimization, exhaustion level management, injury prevention, running technique, stress levels and adaptive training plans.

When a user is out on a run, Vi keeps them informed about things like what pace they are doing, their cadence, how hard they are pushing and what their heart-rate is, all in relation to what is optimal for them at that specific time and with guidance provided for optimal performance. Users, in turn, can ask Vi about any of these things, as well as play music, take calls and send text messages, all via voice control.

The device has been developed in partnership with with Harman/Kardon, so there should be no concerns about audio quality. In addition, it is integrated with streaming services such as Spotify, or can play music from a user's own collection while training.

An accompanying Vi mobile app for Android and iOS allows users to track their performance over both the short and long term. With the app, users can continue communicating with Vi via voice or text when they are not training. The device connects to a user's smartphone via either Bluetooth or Bluetooth Low Energy.

Vi uses earbud proximity sensing, so switches on automatically when a user dons the earbuds. This can be used for call answering too. It also has a lithium polymer battery that is said to last for over eight hours on a full charge and is charged via Micro USB.

A Kickstarter crowdfunding competition is under way for Vi. At the time of writing, pledges of US$199 will receive one of the headsets, assuming all goes to plan with the roll-out. Shipping is expected from December this year.

The video below is the Kickstarter pitch for Vi.

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