Crowdfunded project raises bar for fitness tracking

Are you running or riding a bike? Amiigo not only tracks physical activities, it accounts for the varying levels of effort required by different exercises.
Written by Beth Carter, Contributing Editor

The market is flooded with fitness-minded software applications along with gadgets such as clips, wristbands and watches that promise to help wearers get in shape, sleep better or improve their overall health.

I personally use software such as the Nike Training Club app, as well as GPS watches, heart-rate monitors and fitness trackers. For the most part, the fitness devices already on the market -- like Nike's FuelBand, Jawbone's UP and the Fitbit -- are great for their intended function: tracking general activity (and the rest in between). If they don't cut it, there are a slew of specialized tools for very specific activities.

Then, there’s the Amiigo, a fitness bracelet that aims to combine the best of both worlds. The company's founders are crowdfunding their project on Indiegogo -- it has already attracted more than triple their original $90,000 campaign goal with about three weeks still left to fundraise.

Amiigo is a wristband (plus shoe clip) that is much like many other gadgets that track things like activity, heart rate and calorie tracking. But it is designed with one small difference that its backers are confident will ensure its success: activity recognition.

That means the gadget not only tracks your heart rate, calories expended, and overall activity, it differentiates between exercises, speed and intensity.

Here's part of its campaign description:

"At Amiigo we wanted to create something that would allow people to track the details of an exercise routine & how it affects the body. We wanted to allow users to track specific things like; exercise type, reps, sets, duration, speed, and intensity. Amiigo also tracks heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, overall activity level, and calories burned."

Founders Abe Carter and David Scott, based in Salt Lake City, were using cardio equipment at their gym one day (before the release of Nike FuelBand) and found themselves wishing they could automatically track what they were doing at the gym and how it was affecting their bodies. Thus, Amiigo was born.

“There’s not a whole lot of innovation,” Scott says, referring to many existing fitness trackers. “Those devices don’t do much more than what a pedometer has been doing forever. We wanted to take it up a notch.”

For Amiigo, that "next notch" is its gesture recognition system, which tracks whether or not you were active that day (which is the FuelBand’s primary function) AND also catalogs whether the exercise came in the form of bicep curls, running, or any of more than 100 other activities you might perform both in and out of the gym.

The gadget logs repetitions and sets, as well. With that information, you can analyze how your body is responding to specific exercises. By contrast, a FuelBand doesn’t distinguish whether you are striding on the Stairmaster or riding a stationary bike, two activities that affect our bodies differently.

If you're using a traditional tracker, as another example, squats don’t register as a whole lot of activity, despite using the majority of the muscles in your body. The Amiigo would recognize not just your heart rate, but that you’re doing a squat, and what that means for your physiology.

Friendly competition

Like its competition, the Amiigo offers a social component, allowing wearers to share their progress (or lack thereof) with Amiigo-using friends.

The sharing part was a no-brainer: recent research has suggested people are most likely to perform their best when they work out with a partner, group or belong to a community with a shared goal.

The driving idea behind Amiigo is that fitness devices should do more than collect oodles of data, they should provide insights on how your activity is affecting your body so that you can learn something. The Bluetooth in both the shoe clip and bracelet can communicate with both iOS and Android devices, and both pieces of hardware are waterproof.

Amiigo’s gesture-recognition feature could be a game-changer for those looking to finetune their fitness tracking experience. It may not track sleep like UP or Fitbit, making it a bit less holistic for tracking overall health, but it's easy to see how Amiigo could help people become far more engaged in their fitness regime.

“We’re not just telling them, ‘Here’s your data,’ ” Scott says. “We’re focused on really getting them to care and want to share.”

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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