Nautilus launches AI platform to coach, train Bowflex customers

Max Intelligence is a cloud-based subscription service delivered through Samsung's Knox platform and tablets to move users toward health and fitness goals.

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Nautilus has launched its Max Intelligence platform, an artificial intelligence-powered training and coaching system, to ride along with its Bowflex Max Trainer M6 and M8 cardio machines.

The Max Intelligent platform is critical to Nautilus, which is looking to engage its customer base, boost health outcomes and develop a recurring revenue stream.

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To deliver content and track customer health data Nautilus partnered with Samsung's B2B unit to install a purpose-built Galaxy Tab E in the machines. Nautilus uses Knox Configure to control the updates, content delivery and security on the devices.

Fitness brands are increasingly launching digital transformation efforts. Peloton is a widely known company that has melded technology and fitness and expanded beyond cycling. Life Fitness has launched a software platform for gyms and health clubs. And SoulCycle has adopted agile code development and apps. Fitbit is leveraging its vast data repository to become more embedded into the healthcare system.

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On Nautilus' third quarter earnings conference call Oct. 29, operating chief William McMahon outlined the importance of Max Intelligence. He said:

Max Intelligence will include multiple features such as the intelligent coaching technology which drives the unique and custom workouts, a significant level of video content with instructor-led training and AI-based motivational tools designed to provide encouragement and rewards-based feedback.

It's not just selecting from 1 of 27 different workouts or things like that, it's actually delivering custom workouts for you based on where you're at in your performance to date and what you're trying to get to.

Max Intelligence will be a subscription for $149 annual or $14.95 a month. Here's Nautilus' core pitch for Max Intelligence, which initially launches on the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 and M8. A subscription includes intelligent coaching, adaptive workouts, video workouts, fitness assessments and rewards and tracking. The M8 is available online for $2,299 and the M8 Performance Pack is available for $2,599.

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Nautilus is also looking to integrate technology throughout its product lines such as Schwinn bikes and Octane equipment. Samsung's tablets can be added to Schwinn bikes and feature games and content designed to boost heart rate levels.

Max Intelligence is engineered to take a baseline health assessment and then help you improve from there. Robert Jacobson, head of digital strategy and partnerships at Nautilus' Bowflex group, said in an interview that Max Intelligence was in development for about 18 months.

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For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Nautilus spent $12.74 million on research and development, up from $11.1 million for the same period a year ago. Nautilus said in regulatory filings that it is investing in engineering, technology and product development. For 2017, R&D spending was $15.44 million, up from $9.9 million in 2015.

Here are some key points worth pondering from Nautilus' development efforts:

  • Nautilus needed customer data and vitals to start Max Intelligence, but since the company sells direct to consumers it was able to round up interested individuals. Jacobson said it took about a summer to get a statistically significant number of customers to participate in workouts and share data.
  • The data set from customers was initially plugged into a rules engine and then algorithms were developed. The algorithm development took about 9 months to hone.
  • Coaching matters since the Nautilus customer base consists of people starting to work out. Nautilus also had to account for fit people. The M8 is billed as a machine that can give you a good workout in 14 minutes, but some customers initially start at 4 minutes and build up. Max Intelligence had to account for a wide range of fitness consumers.
  • Content was the last part of developing Max Intelligence and building the library took 6 months to start and is an ongoing process.

New content and algorithm updates are pushed through Knox Configure and the purpose built tablets. Inputs from consumers come from the machines and sensors such as heart rate monitors. The Bowflex Max Trainer M8 has 20 resistance levels and calculates burn rate as well as other metrics.

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