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Why the gym of the future is your living room

Sweat tech: Tonal CEO Aly Orady explains why big data and AI are the pedals that power the future of fitness.

Dan Patterson, senior producer for CNET and CBS News, spoke with Aly Orady, CEO of Tonal. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Aly Orady: The first thing you get by using connected fitness equipment is the convenience of having it in your home. But, it turns out that simply having equipment in your home isn’t enough. People need motivation, they need guidance, especially with something like strength training, which takes a little bit more expertise to do well–you need the guidance of a personal trainer.

Connected equipment can give you all of these benefits, convenience, motivation, guidance, instruction, all in one place, all in the comfort and convenience of your home. Tonal is a digital strength training machine for the home that uses electricity to generate force instead of big metal plates and gravity. Traditional weights use large plates, which take up a lot of space and you need a paper and pencil to keep track of your workouts and know what to do.

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With a digital strength training machine like Tonal, you can have a 24-inch screen with onscreen coaches that guide you through your workout. Artificial intelligence (AI) that can track everything that you do, analyze it, and decide what you’re going to do next, so you end up getting a much better workout, in a shorter amount of time, in the convenience of your home.

We have an immense amount of data and measurement going on in real-time. Tonal is able to measure how you’re doing with every single repetition and automatically adjust the amount of weight for you. If you are working out at the gym, you are normally guessing how much weight you should lift–even a personal trainer is eyeballing it. But, with precise data measurement, we can measure the quality of every single repetition, decide how much weight you should lift, and adjust your weight in one pound increments when you’re ready to progress to the next level.

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This is all based on a wealth of data that is not only based on you, but based on an entire community of users. Tonal has now amassed the largest strength training physiology data set in history. And we use that to train our AI.

Dan Patterson: That health data is incredibly powerful, especially for building a healthier lifestyle, but it’s also incredibly personal. How do you secure or lock down my health and fitness data?

Aly Orady: Well, every single person’s data is encrypted and locked secure to their own account, but then we take anonymized data and use that to train our AI and teach it how to make smarter decisions about how people should lift weight, how much weight they should lift and when they should increase.

We use a wide variety of neural network and statistical techniques to train our algorithms. It’s really based on looking at cutting across our community and seeing how people are progressing. Of course, our AI goes beyond just weight selection. We have a lot of logic that adjusts how much instruction people should receive. It gives them real-time feedback on their form, on how they’re behaving, adjusts the pacing of the workout to the individual user. There’s actually a lot going on under the hood. And it’s not just one technique it’s a variety of them combined.

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