By and large, the health and fitness industry is one of the industries that has been least affected by technology. Sure, resistance machines have improved and so have the supplements that we can buy. But still fitness is generally something we do away from the computer. Whereas business has been completely transformed by the introduction of technology, and entertainment has become more and more high tech, the gym is still largely free of monitors and keyboards.
When fitness apps and devices do enter our lives, these tend to either be gimmicks or optional peripherals. Sure calorie counting watches are fun, but they’ve hardly changed the way we workout in the same way that the internet has changed the way we listen to music.
But all that might be about to change as we head towards a new era of technology that is smarter and more ubiquitous than ever before…
Virtual Reality and Health
One of the biggest examples of how technology might be about to change fitness forever is through virtual reality. Anyone who is interested in technology will be aware of the Oculus Rift by now and will probably have been watching its development over the past few years. This is the hardware that might finally deliver on the promise of true VR, and if it gets combined with good motion sensing technology such as that available through the Kinect 2, then it could be truly paradigm shifting.
In terms of health and fitness this would then having amazing applications. Find that exercise is normally too boring? Then imagine being in a ‘holodeck’ and having to dodge laser disks thrown at you from all angles. Or imagine surfing down a mountain and having to twist your body and jump to avoid oncoming objects.
Better yet, imagine if the potential sense of ‘presence’ could allow for you to meet someone in your living room who could then see exactly the way you were moving. The obvious fitness application here is for a personal trainer who could stand next to you and make sure you were using the right technique while spurring you on during your home workouts.
Meanwhile augmented reality is the combination of reality and digital imagery. Imagine something that bridges the gap between the Oculus Rift and Google Glass which could project 3D images onto the world around you.
Zombie Run is a fun game already available for smartphones. In this game you hear the sound of zombies breathing down your neck as you run and that spurs you on to run faster and perform better.
But with augmented reality you could actually see those zombies behind you, while also seeing potholes to jump over on the floor and the world around you burning and collapsing. In other words you could insert yourself right into an adrenaline-packed action game/film and this would ensure that exercising and working out was never boring again. Now that would be a transformative experience for the fitness industry.
The Near Future
Some of that stuff is a little way off, but in the near future we’re going to be seeing some great things too. The Kinect 2 for instance could already help to make virtual fitness training a little more effective, while the number of different biometrics we can collect is growing all the time.
And let’s not forget just what the web has done for our fitness knowledge in general and how much it continues to do. We shouldn’t take for granted the ability to search for a home pecs workout on YouTube and then to get a great routine that we can copy from home. Nor should we ignore how useful it is to be able to do a Google search and quickly find aquafit classes or martial arts.
Already then technology has helped to make us fitter as a nation (contrary to popular belief). The future of fitness and tech then are looking very bright indeed.