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Virtual Coach Offers High-tech Way of Getting in Shape


FILE - A wearable fitness device from Moov offers high-tech ways of getting in shape.

FILE - A wearable fitness device from Moov offers high-tech ways of getting in shape.

The beginning of the new year for many people means a renewed commitment to get in shape and shed weight, and a growing number of devices and applications (apps) are providing alternatives to the gym.

The boxer

Matt Knight lives in Silicon Valley and considers himself a tech-savvy athlete. He loves boxing, but has learned from experience that hiring a trainer is not cheap.

"Coming in for a one-on-one session would have cost a ton of money for the level of caliber of these guys," Knight said.

So he searched around and found a wearable device called Moov that coaches users in cardio-boxing workouts. Unlike passive wearable devices that only count a user's steps, Moov verbally coaches and encourages a user during workouts through an app.

"Moov doesn't necessarily give you the full guidance that you would get from a real live coach, but it does guide you through the cardio aspects of it," Knight said.

Knight used the product so often that Moov hired him to test other devices. Besides cardio boxing, the waterproof device coaches users in four other types of workouts: swimming, cycling, running and bodyweight training.

Entrepreneur from Beijing

Moov's co-founder, Beijing native Meng Li, was inspired to develop this wearable coach while working long hours on another Silicon Valley startup.

"I found I was not as healthy and active as before,” Li said. “I started feeling like I need to work out. I need to charge myself, but I don't have time to go to the gym or money to pay the trainer so that's actually part of the reason we started Moov."

The wearable device is unique compared with others on the market because of how it tracks a user's movements, she says.

"We created both the sensor technology as well as the A.I. [artificial intelligence] coaching in-house,” she said. “One focuses more on the hardware, the other focuses on the software. The sensor senses your movement in 3D space, for example, it senses your range of motion, it senses your rotation, it senses your orientation."

Hit in U.S., Asia

Fitness-oriented wearable devices are not only gaining popularity in the U.S., Li said, but also in many Asian countries.

"In China, the trend of fitness is growing so fast and we see very similar behaviors and needs from our consumers in China, and it's growing,” she said. “At the beginning, we didn't expect that. It was basically a surprise.”

While Moov is based in Silicon Valley, Li does have a team of employees in China, and she expects more trips home as her three-year-old startup grows.

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