Now that we’re a couple of years into the fitness tracking craze, it’s starting to feel like simply counting steps or strokes or REM cycles isn’t enough. Now that we have all that data in the palm of our hand, what exactly do we do with it?
That’s where Moov comes in. Moov is a new company with an eponymous device that’s designed to not only quantify what you’re doing, but to also coach you in real time. “Pedometer-like trackers only provide data, and more precisely, steps,” says Meng Li, one of Moov’s cofounders. “They aren’t motivating after showing the same number every day for a week.”
Li and cofounder Nikola Hu (who worked at Apple as an engineer before leaving to work on Moov) compare the system to a Nintendo: the wristwatch-like hardware is the center console and it allows you to connect to four different app for running, swimming, weight training, and cardio kickboxing. Other activities like cycling and yoga are in the works now.
Moov gamifies working out even more than Fitbits and FuelBands do by weaving real-time voice coaching into each activity. When I met with the founders, we tested out an option for training for a marathon. Via Moov’s Running app, you program the system to know, for example, that you need to run longer while also avoiding knee injury. The device communicates to the app, which then syncs with headphones. As Hu started jogging in place, a Siri-like voice told him to lengthen his stride and to lean forward in order to take pressure off of his knee joints. The encouraging voice then told him to pick up the pace in order to beat his last workout. When finished, Moov’s brightly colored dashboard calculated how those adjustments improved the workout by showing how many more calories were burned and how much more distance had been covered, offering a clearer performance portrait for Hu’s jog.
How Moov can know something as nuanced as stride length is what makes the device so unique. Moov’s internal hardware combines magnets and sensors for angles and gravity to capture a 3-D motion portrait of the wearer (the technology is different than Microsoft Kinect, but the general idea is similar). The biomechanics that power Moov are largely based off of research done at Harvard and the University of Cape Town (and according to Li and Hu, are also used in strategic missiles employed by the State Department). Li says refining this kind of sensing technology to be precise enough for the human body has been in the works for about eight years: “We weren’t sure we could reconstruct the movement with the sensors so accurately until we saw the result ourselves,” she tells Co.Design.
The actual Moov hardware can be worn around the wrist, or the chip-sized device can be tied to a shoe, for running, or onto golf clubs or tennis rackets. It’s aesthetically unassuming; it looks similar to the circular Shine, and the Basis B1, which one of the more insightful wearables on the market, but is also clunky. And Moov’s sleek versatility, even more than the coaching, might be key to its adoption, now that fashion brands are wising up to the prospects of wearables.
Now that they’ve built Moov, Li thinks there may be more applications for researchers, who could ordinarily study the human body in motion only in a lab. If this kind of comprehensive sensing technology works, it also irons out a major kink we saw with the last Nike FuelBand: a feature that asks users to retroactively adjust the intensity of certain workouts that the band can’t measure.
Moov will be raising funds through their own crowdfunding platform, here. At the moment the device costs $59.