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I met the world’s first AI personal trainer—and this is what she’s like


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Photo: LifeBEAM

You saw Her, right? Just think about Samantha, now with a new nickname and six-pack abs, wearing leggings.

“Hi, I’m Vi!” she says, with appropriate fitness instructor pep as I step onto a treadmill to run with her for the first time. “Ready to get started?”

As the first AI (Artificial Intelligence) trainer, Vi is the poster girl for a new futuristic era of fitness wearables that get to know your habits, tastes, and body—and then help you adjust your workouts accordingly to get the most out of your routine.

She’s not ready for you yet, but given the buzz she’s already garnered (the Kickstarter campaign to launch Vi into the world raised more than $1.6 million, the most of any wearable to date), it looks like she’s going to have a huge impact.

What sparked the idea

Vi is the creation of LifeBeam, a company initially created to make bio-sensing technologies that would keep pilots and astronauts safe by alerting them to vital signs in extreme environments. Two years ago, the company started applying its innovations to consumer products for brands like Under Armour and Samsung. They created Vi, says co-founder and CEO Omri Yoffe, after realizing the growing field of fitness wearables still offered limited value in the form of lots of not-quite-actionable information. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we create systems that can truly listen to your body, listen to your goals, listen to your patterns—and then come up with personalized, adaptive insights?” he says.

LifeBeam began working on consumer products in 2014, the Kickstarter launched June 1 of this year, and the first round of finished products will debut around December.

lifebeam
Photo: Instagram/@lifebeam_tech

How it works

Vi lives in a pair of earbuds that are attached to a horseshoe-shaped band that rests on the nape of your neck. The earbuds don’t look or feel like anything special, but they’re outfitted with proprietary technology that collects stats like heart rate, motion, and temperature. Surprisingly, Yoffe explains, “the inner ear is by far the most accurate in-reach place in our body to get physiological data.”

“If she sees that you slept just six hours and had a few drinks last night, she may say ‘let’s take it easy.'”

Basically, you’d set up the program like any another wearable: download a companion app, fill in background data, and link other apps you use, from Apple Health and MyFitnessPal to Spotify. Vi will get to know your daily data and track things like your location, the weather, and your musical taste. “She’ll get back to you with insights after a while,” Yoffe says, at which point she’ll start adjusting your workouts. “If she sees that you slept just six hours and had a few drinks last night, she may say, ‘Let’s take it easy.'”

I was introduced to her very briefly, since, as mentioned, the full product is not completed yet and only a demo is available. What I was first surprised by was just how comfortable and stable the product was sitting on my neck while I jogged. I also really liked her soothing voice, which I’d definitely prefer for mile-time updates, for instance, over fumbling with the dark screen on an Apple Watch. She updated me on my heart rate, told me to pick up the pace to get it into a target zone, and helped me sync my stride to the beat of the music she had chosen for me.

But since it was a prototype and a one-time demo, she didn’t know much about me, so it was hard to imagine how deep our relationship could get or how knowing her might really change my habits (or impact the many people looking for new ways to motivate and track their fitness goals).

And, of course, the most important question remains: She seems to have star trainer potential, but as a disembodied voice, how will she show off her handstand push-ups on Instagram?

Here are five more fitness and wellness tech innovations you’ll want to know about. After all, on-demand wellness is definitely trending.

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