Yet another wearable fitness device. But this one is gym rat-approved

By Richard Nieva , written on January 14, 2013

From The News Desk

We're two weeks into the new year. How’s that I-promise-I-will-go-to-the-gym resolution going?

Anyone trying to get into shape knows one of the most effective things you can do is enlist a partner to go through the process with you. A Salt Lake City, Utah-based company called Amiigo thinks they’ve made the device that could be your gym buddy. It won’t spot you, or shame you into getting your ass out of bed and to the gym, but it will help you keep track of your workout.

The wearable technology market is becoming an ever-crowded one, especially in the fitness realm. Nike’s FuelBand, Jawbone’s UP and the Fitbit Flex wristband have been among the highest-profile ones. There’s also the LG Smart Activity Tracker, which just launched at CES last week.

But the difference between the Amiigo and these other wearable fitness products is the ability to hone in on your workout at a micro level. The company’s cofounder Abe Carter -- a self-described "hardcore fitness participant" -- says the device’s accelerometer and software can track and identify specific exercises, from a rep on the bench press to a session on the elliptical to a bicep curl. The software can also detect subtle differences in the same exercises, meaning, if your form is off for a couple of reps, Amiigo will let you know. A simple pedometer to make you feel good about walking a few extra blocks for a burrito it is not.

“We’re unlocking a new addressable market with hardcore fitness people,” says Carter, though he insists the product is just as helpful for more casual exercisers and not just gym rats.

The Amiigo device package consists of a wristband (standard fare for these kinds of products), a small attachment that latches onto your shoe, and smartphone software for iOS and Android. The company launched its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo today, looking to raise $90,000 in 45 days.

Despite Carter's protestations that the device can be used by the most casual of exercisers, it is clearly the more involved gym-goer that will benefit most from a product like this. Someone on a harder-core regiment – with a lifting schedule and cardio plans – will see the upside more than someone who is less tied to a specific plan, and is, say, simply an avid runner.

It's a fine marketing line the company will have to walk: Its very differentiation from better funded, well known products with far better distribution (and brand names without superfluous vowels...) also puts the company in a risky spot of becoming too much of a niche product. There is certainly a market for the major fitness buff -- that's the reason there are a million different types of nutritional supplements available at GNC. But how big is that market? Like it or not, Carter isn't likely to win the mainstream given how late his product is to the market and how out-gunned it is on resources.

That said, there are also other fun things the software allows. For example, Carter says some of the most effective exercises are the quirky ones that people make up, and aren’t your standard sit-up or squat. With Amiigo, you’ll be able to track the progress you’re making while doing that weird flailing hop-thrust exercise you made up.

Bonus: you can share the exercise on the software’s social platform, and maybe, just maybe, the exercise will catch on like the Macarena. The software also gives a user physiological feedback like tracking oxygen saturation and heart rate, to help measure how impactful the workout is. A user can also compare specific actions – like the motion of a bicep curl – with the actions of others in a database. As she uses the device more and more, the software replaces the data of generic people in the database with her own data.

Carter claims the company’s sweet spot is in its software. It certainly seems like powerful technology, but even the pros that have been in the market for a longer time have stumbled with fitness software. Jawbone’s UP initially fell flat, prompting the company to take swift action offering customers full no-questions-asked refunds.

If Amiigo has any of these missteps – which doesn’t seem unreasonable for a company on a crowdfunding platform – users may be less forgiving than toward a company who has the resources to make things right more quickly, aka offering a quick fix like an upgrade to make it all better. Like all crowd funding projects, it has a smaller window and one shot to get this right.

[Image courtesy: Rennett Stowe]