Eric Johnson

Recent Posts by Eric Johnson

The Other Side of Gamified Fitness: Fitstar Wants to Turn iDevices Into Personal Trainers

Being fat is popular, but trying to be fit is trendy, so it should come as no surprise that the tech world is offering variations on that theme for the holidays. Coincidentally timed to the same day as the official launch of Goji Play today, Fitstar’s subscription-based workout service is getting a major upgrade.

Whereas Goji Play tries to use mobile games to distract you from your workout, Fitstar makes you focus on it. But it uses some tricks that might seem familiar to fans of both fitness tracking and videogames to keep players going.

(Which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; Fitstar’s CEO Mike Maser did marketing for Electronic Arts in the early 2000s, and VP of engineering Dave Grijalva directed platform technology for mobile gaming startup Ngmoco, now owned by DeNA).

This week, the company is upgrading its subscription-based Fitstar: Tony Gonzalez app for iPad and debuting it on iPhone and iPod Touch. At first glance, it seems to be modeled more after exercise home videos than anything else, since its core content is Gonzalez (a tight end for the Atlanta Falcons) and others demonstrating how to work out correctly.

However, the Fitstar app feels more like a game once you know that its content is constantly changing based on what exercises you do and how long you do them, a feature Grijalva labels “real-time audio and video editing.” So, if your workout calls for you to do five pushups, it will show you Gonzalez doing five, but if it calls for you to do 15, it will show him doing 15.

To determine what exercises to assign next, the app currently depends on users to self-report their progress, but Maser and Grijalva said in an interview that Fitstar’s platform is designed to integrate with the growing number of fitness trackers on the market. It can already interact with Fitbit and Jawbone, but Grijalva expressed interest in future wearables that might read one’s heart rate or otherwise detect a user’s progress through a workout.

Fitstar: Tony Gonzalez costs $5 per month or $50 per year for a premium subscription, but some workouts are available for free. The company doesn’t disclose active user numbers, but said that it has received hundreds of thousands of downloads on the iPad to date and has converted more than 10 percent of those users from free to paid.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik