The A.I. Fitness Coach: 5 Questions With Vi Maker Omri Yoffe

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what-is-vi-device

Meet VI — “an A.I. Personal Trainer whose voice moves your body and mind.” Her promise is to help you “lose weight, get fit, and live well, with her in your ears.”

Billed as the world’s first AI personal trainer, Vi (currently priced at US$159 vs. its regular price of $249) uses bio-sensing earphones engineered by Harman Kardon and leverages a user’s individual biometric data to provide personalized motivation—with a bit of sass on the side—and custom, professional fitness training advice. Instead of wearable tech, its maker calls it a hearable device.

“She” tracks and provides real-time biometric feedback and statistics in a natural AI voice and tone that is easy to understand. Vi also uses real time voice and sound commands with aerospace-grade biosensors such as heart rate, motion, elevation, proximity and touch.

The Vi system connects with a user’s music on Spotify and other platforms for an audio experience that matches recommended paces; it also connects with smartphone GPS during workouts so the wearer can map his or her running routes.

Users can make and receive calls at any time, and Vi weighs just 1.3oz, ergonomic design, has a battery life of 6-8 hours, is water and sweat resistant.

She is compatible with Bluetooth and BLE, Apple HealthKit, Google Fit and Strava.

Developed by LifeBEAM, which is based in New York City and has R&D centers in Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and Asia bringing aerospace-grade innovation to the consumer space, the company has worked with Under Armour and Samsung on wearable tech.

Omri Yaffe headshotWe spoke with Founder and CEO Omri Yoffe (who says his 2018 goals are to be transparent, listen and keep evolving) for more:

Omri, how does Vi improve on earphones and trackers during workouts, in your view, and what differentiates it from competitors?

There are 2 main differentiators in our mind:
1. Vi embodies the traits of 3 products rolled into one: earphones, tracker and AI trainer.

2. Beyond the device itself, you are getting evolving software that gets to know your goals and patterns and grows with you over time. From how to say your name right to analyzing your patterns to suggesting tips and personal plans towards your weight loss goal, Vi is able to replace your need to hire a personal trainer.

How does that market compare with boutique fitness classes in studios or even customized workouts like Peleton—or does Vi appeal to a different kind of fitness buff?

Our mission is to democratize personal wellness around the world through machine intelligence and voice computing. We’ve built a voice/text-powered trainer for body and mind. Through Vi, we have designed a gated experience to help users along the way to help achieve their health and fitness goals—and beyond.

If Vi continues to evolve at her current pace, we see Vi as a major catalyst to make personal health and fitness accessible to all, at a much lower price point than current human and technology services can provide.

How does Vi provide real-time coaching based on a user’s fitness data?

The inner ear is by far the most rich and valuable area we could think of for tracking data for two main reasons: first you have an almost invasive and incredible accurate way to measure your biometrics (heart rate heart rate variability, saturation, motion, skin temp and more) and second, you can deliver an intimate hand/eyes free voice interaction in your ear, without the need to touch or look at a screen.

The term “hearables” (i.e. inner ear computers) is becoming more and more popular, and Vi is one of the first pioneers to truly deliver a hearable that goes beyond just being a cool gadget.

What was the biggest challenge in creating Vi and what are the challenges in scaling it? 

Given the fact Vi is a first of it kind AI voice interaction experience, the biggest challenge in creating Vi was the need to build a fully smooth “out of the box” experience, meaning we wanted to reduce the level of friction to just unbox the device, get a first introduction with Vi and start working out 3 minutes after.

In order to do so, we needed to develop a fully synchronized system (hardware, sounds, voice recognition, content, 3rd party audio sources integration, machine intelligence tools and more), all resulting into a seamless and compelling experience, without the need to purchase or integrate any other product or service.

The biggest challenges in scaling Vi? Probably people’s natural need for multiple choices in terms of both the audio from factor to different pricing tiers and more. After successfully introducing to the world this type of new concept, we are now ready to focus on creating more choices and ways for people to meet Vi and experience her.

What is on the horizon for the hearable market and for the Vi brand in particular?

As mentioned, the inner ear is by far the most exciting place to deliver people an immersive, personalized and effective workout experience. Another critical factor is the emerging trend of scientifically utilizing different music styles and pace to specific physical and mental training. These two factors are going to fuel audio training as basically an endless segment to keep growing.


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