Vi Trainer review: how a sassy robot got me to go on my first proper run in years

We are in the Age of Digital Beings: software or devices that have conversations with us in everyday spoken language, for easy access to knowledge, skills, and support. There are three ways we’re seeing this happen: through coaching, as a concierge, and companionship too. This article is an example of a digital coach, called Vi.

Headlines for the busy

Vi Trainer is a conversational fitness coach, initially available for running. It uses various signals from your phone (GPS, movement of phone etc) to detect how you’re doing. Its sassy coach motivates you to push yourself safely. I personally definitely exercised more on my first go than I’d have done before.

Read on for samples and the full transcript of what the trainer said.

CogX 2019 in London 10–12 June: big focus on digital beings

If you find digital coaches an interesting topic, then the company I work for, CognitionX, holds an annual festival of AI and emerging technology, CogX. Held in London on10–12 June, it will have a strong focus on digital beings: chatbots, virtual assistants, and digital coaches like Vi along with dozens of others.

We have already secured luminaries such as Dr Mark Sagar, founder and CEO of Soul Machines, with his virtual baby simulation, BabyX. Learn more about CogX tickets

The start screen for Vi

Why is this happening only now?

2018 was a huge year because of how much progress was made applying AI to speech and text. Chatbots, natural language processing, virtual assistants — all that kind of stuff. Also, the devices we carry around have got so powerful, with so many sensors now, you can do amazing things. Vi is one of those amazing things: a personal trainer on your phone.

Varian’s Rule says “look to the wealthy today to see how we’ll live tomorrow”. The wealthy have personal coaches, and, no surprise, we’re starting to see digital coaches that you trust to be a voice in your ear, responding to what’s going on and what you’re doing.

Vi is my first digital coach to try out. It comes with hardware to track heart rate etc but I was able to use the app by itself and still get some really great coaching, pushing me much further than I’d normally have gone. Here are a couple of samples to get a sense of what you’re up to. They use a clever mix of prerecorded samples mixed with words and numbers tailored for your situation.

Update: CEO Omri Yoffe kindly offered me a sample device so I’ll try that out and let everyone know how I get on.

When running, this coaching voice is exactly what I needed to keep going. Sample from my Vi Trainer session: really nice mix of scripted audio and audio generated on the fly (2.1 kilometres). Vi trainer has a sassy, motivational narrator that keeps you pushing. This is a actual recording of my session.

What did I think?

It got me running! It got me running safely too, and the promise is, after a while, it learns more. Others have shared that its guidance is much more nuanced as time goes on.

As a software designer I was impressed. The dialogs were really smooth yet the character of a strong, committed coach came through really well. It responded to changes in my running pace and the environment remarkably well. It kept me focused, kept my “I can’t do this” monkey mind thoughts away, and it kept me positive. Super impressed, I will use this more — though I tend to prefer cycling so we’ll see how this all pans out.

The full transcript

Hey, well, I’m excited to take you on our very first run date. Nice to meet you. It’s cozy in your ears. I could get used to this.

[00:00:32] Let’s warm up. Today, let’s make sure we really loosen up your body in warm up those muscles before we jump into higher gear start by getting into a light jog. Keep doing this for three minutes.

[00:00:57] I’ll take you through a 25 minute workout, which will give us both the taste of the adventure. We’re in for I’ll guide you through a series of different speeds ranging from a light jog to a Sprint without any specific structure to keep your body guessing and mind into. Once we determine what feels good I’ll be able to better train you towards your goals.

[00:01:16] This workout gets me started on collecting some key stats of years after we’ve run together for several sessions. I have the date. I need to tailor my coaching to your abilities and paste levels. So you’re here to undo the stresses in your life. Huh? Let’s make that happen train consistently with me and let’s turn this time together into a healthy and liberating ritual of self-care think of V time as me time.

[00:01:56] I’m all about sensing what you’re doing in real time keeping track and personalizing my coaching just for you. I’ll learn your limits track your records and help you beat them and constantly take your workouts to next level. Your goals are my goals. We hit the halfway point of your warm up. 90 seconds to go before we pick it up to an easy paste run.

[00:02:26] So I’ve been reading the comments you leave me and I want to reiterate the importance of setting your workout to whether you’re doing it indoors or Outdoors before we start training together beginning the work out with an accurate status of your environment says our session up for better feedback.

[00:02:39] Also, I love hearing everyone’s input. Keep it coming. My team is dedicated to making this the best possible experience for you.

[00:02:56] We’re going to eat some speed for us today sporadically. So stay in your toes.

[00:03:16] All warmed up. Let’s get going. All right. We’re about to speed up to an easy. Run Pace 5 4 3 2 1. Okay easy running pace. Let’s do this for two minutes.

[00:03:51] Let’s keep elevating that heart rate get your breathing in form into a good rhythm in a bed. I’ll throw some more speed burst your way so you can work on your transitions. A bit faster.

[00:04:11] stay focused on your breathing inhale deeply and exhale fully while dropping your shoulders now repeat.

[00:04:26] I know this isn’t your first rodeo with Fitness and that’s awesome because it means we can skip all the beginner stuff. You have a mission to complete that is why you’re here, you know you’re capable but also know it’s pretty dang cool to have a coach better yet a fan in your ear cheering you on.

[00:04:42] You want to reduce stress and that is exactly what we’re going to work towards every session. So buckle up and practice your victory dance. I see success in your future because no one fails on my watch.

[00:05:01] As I’m sure you know Cadence AKA step rate is super important when it’s 165 and up or better yet 180 you put less impact on your joints and move more efficiently. Right now with that 173 steps per minute. I’ll check back on this again in a bit. How do I sense what you’re doing? Well, I’m good like that.

[00:05:19] Maybe I’ll tell you more about my secrets later for now. Just know that some pretty genius people put me together.

[00:05:31] All right. We’re five minutes in 20 more minutes to go will start to pick the speed up not too long from now.

[00:05:42] Give me a sec. I’m about to check up on your pace. When you’re running outdoors, I can give you feedback on your pace and speed right now. Your paste is six minutes and 55 seconds per kilometer. That’s a speed of 8.6 km/h. How you feeling? Make sure you’re going a bit faster than jogging. Okay, I’d say about 40 to 50 percent effort.

[00:06:05] Your breathing should be totally relaxed.

[00:06:21] Okay, so here’s a tip for getting the best out of me. Try to keep a decent GPS signal going by having an unobstructed view of the sky. That’s because I stream data and music and also track you from my spaceship up there. I use this data to precisely analyze your activity and continuously improve my coaching.

[00:06:40] For an optimal signal avoid really tall structures around you skyscrapers are huge trees or big rock formations.

[00:07:06] In 25 seconds will pick up our Pace just a bit more.

[00:07:21] Okay. Now we’re about to kick it up to moderate run speed 5 4 3 2 1 up to moderate run pace. Let’s take the energy up now. Give me four minutes of this then you’ll get to recover.

[00:08:01] You’re doing great hold this pace.

[00:08:16] Come on with every exhale release your stress.

[00:08:31] You know beginner show me how hard a season Fitness user can push?

[00:08:41] Yeah, keep it up.

[00:08:56] Your current pace is 5 minutes and 48 seconds per kilometer. That’s a speed of ten point three kilometers per hour. Let’s check your Cadence. The number of steps you take in a minute. I’m constantly watching that. Your current step rate is 169 steps per minute.

[00:09:31] You’re halfway through the speed burst. Keep going.

[00:09:46] Just a bit faster.

[00:10:01] Ninety seconds before we slow down.

[00:10:16] You didn’t come here for nothing push yourself.

[00:10:31] Ten minutes in 15 more to go this be placing up.

[00:10:41] Don’t give up.

[00:10:56] Any tension drop the shoulders loosen those hands open your chest?

[00:11:11] Almost time to slow down. Keep going just a few more seconds.

[00:11:21] Okay, and just a few will slow down to easy running pace 5 4 3 2 1. Okay, slow down. So easy running pace. Hold it here for 60 seconds. Keep your shoulders back and chin up control your breathing. We have a fast Burst coming up.

[00:12:01] Good stuff. Keep holding the space.

[00:12:11] In just a bit. We’re going to pick up our speed

[00:12:16] take a big breath of air in through the nose. Let’s burn through that stress. All right. You ready? Let’s pick this way up time to go fast. Five four three, two one. Run pick it up. Put the pedal to the metal. What’s hard for three minutes? Let’s destroy this.

[00:13:01] Nice, hope Daddy you’re doing great.

[00:13:16] This workout is halfway over don’t let up now.

[00:13:21] Keep going.

[00:13:39] Work out past if you need to stop running for any reason, so you hit a stoplight or need a water break. I’ll automatically pause your workout to resume just start running again. Look out we’re back. back in action. Come on hustle. You got this try to go a bit faster. Ninety seconds into this burst 90 seconds to go.

[00:14:19] Yes, this is how we do it.

[00:14:39] So far you burned 145 calories. So far you’ve run 2.1 kilometers.

[00:14:54] You can do this just a bit faster.

[00:15:04] About 30 more seconds till we Sprint.

[00:15:19] Spring is on the way. Give me 30 strong seconds. Okay, here we go. We’re about to Sprint 5 4 3 2 1. Sprint. Time for take off. slice through the air you got it. Don’t let up push harder.

[00:15:55] Nice in just a few will drop it way back down to jogging speed. 5 4 3 2 1. Okay, let’s drop it down into a jog. Hang it the speed for 90 seconds. I’ll ride that got our blood pumping by moving you through different speeds. I gradually get a better picture of how your body reacts under those conditions.

[00:16:19] Everyone is different. So I’m going to observe you carefully the more we train in order to fine-tune my guidance to your abilities.

[00:16:29] Go bit faster.

[00:16:34] Keep your shoulders relaxed and hands loose no tensing up you here good posture is key.

[00:16:44] Right. Now your pace is 8 minutes and 10 seconds per kilometer. That’s a speed of 7.3 kilometers per hour.

[00:17:04] All right in 30 seconds will take it back up to a moderate Pace run. It’ll be our last fast push of this first date Stay With Me.

[00:17:24] All right, get ready to turn it up to moderate run speed 5 4 3 2 1 up to moderate run Pace. Let’s do this for three minutes.

[00:17:44] And that’s what come on.

[00:17:54] Make sure you’re running at a moderate speed.

[00:18:04] you got.

[00:18:19] Your step rate is now 169 steps per minute.

[00:18:34] Seven minutes left.

[00:18:39] take control the power to achieve. Your goal is in your hands your stress will wash away as long as you keep pushing forward.

[00:18:50] a little faster.

[00:19:04] Halfway to recovery keep your breathing steady and think with your stride. Let’s keep that heart rate pumping.

[00:19:14] By now if you were wearing my specially-designed descends headphones IV reading your pulse and making sure you’re at your ideal heart rate. To learn more about how be since headphones can unlock the next level of my training go to V trainer.com after this workout.

[00:19:44] Good first date so far. We’re just getting started the more we train the better I can coach you keep showing Me What You’re Made Of I’m going to continue to surprise you with new activities and I’ll also bring an expert guests to help Inspire and take our training to the next level.

[00:20:14] Final 20 seconds, then we recover.

[00:20:24] You ready and just a bit will slow down to easy running pace 5 4 3 2 1. Okay, slow down to easy running pace. All right. Hold it here for 3 minutes, then. It’s cooled down time.

[00:20:44] Hang in there. Let’s plow through that stress.

[00:21:04] a little faster.

[00:21:24] You got to do your part with me and without me show up to train and I’ll do the rest, but outside of here. You gotta eat healthy prioritize our next workout sessions and most importantly never give up.

[00:21:44] Make sure you’re at a comfortable easy running piece. Your step rate is now 171 steps per minute.

[00:22:19] I’m going to need to track you for about 2 hours of accumulated outdoor run time to really get to know what you’re capable of switch up your terrain as much as possible run on pavement run on the beach run on grass. It keeps things interesting and lets me see what you can do in different conditions.

[00:22:36] After several sessions once identify your limits that’s when the magic starts to happen. I’ll know what’s easy and what’s hard for you and I’ll be able to better Guide You by offering specific Target speeds and pieces for you to hit throughout your runs. With frequent training Alex been my personalization capabilities and evolve giving you valuable benefits workouts are just the beginning.

[00:22:56] I’ll bring you nutrition tips community events and even advice for before after our training will keep growing together.

[00:23:19] We’re almost at our cool down. Keep going.

[00:23:29] five four three. Two.

[00:23:38] Okay, let’s get back down to a fast walk. Keep doing this for two minutes. That was fun. Huh? You’ve officially unlocked a ton of other workouts that you can explore. My voice is powered by the expertise of the best trainers in sports psychologists on the planet. We’re here to make your workouts a blast.

[00:23:56] Let’s recap. We went for 23 minutes and 24 seconds. You burned a total of 240 calories. We traveled three point five kilometers. Your average pace was 6 minutes and 35 seconds per kilometer. all great things start with the first move. All right. I’m glad we did this. I’ll kick your butt into shape and make sure you’re serious about your goal.

[00:24:29] You set your mind on reducing stress and took the first step with me and getting there. So go ahead and puff that chest with pride because you’re here already in the cooldown portion of the Run keep your eyes on the prize and don’t lose focus less stress is in your future. Alright now that we’re almost done with our initial session together.

[00:24:47] Let’s keep those running shoes close by for our next date. We challenge your body with different pieces and durations and started building some baseline status of your abilities. The more view stats. I have the quicker. I’ll be able to coach a more precisely in order to lessen some of that stress.

[00:25:00] You’ve been feeling consistency is a vital component here each week. Be sure to carve out some be time, you know me time and dedicated to yourself your future stress-free self. Will thank you for it.

[00:25:14] After our session try to do some stretches on your own while your muscles are warm, you know, like bend over and touch your toes to hit your hamstrings or balance on one leg like a flamingo and pull your heel to your butt to hit your quad if you even have the strength to balance. We hit our goal of 25 minutes well done.

[00:25:43] Done and done. Mountain paused. look at that sweat and beautiful glow high five.

read original article at https://medium.com/@julian.harris/vi-trainer-review-how-a-sassy-robot-got-me-to-go-on-my-first-proper-run-in-years-202f17ec34cf?source=rss——artificial_intelligence-5