The person who invents an exercise program that allows you to burn calories without moving from your couch will have it made. Until then, startup Wello has a pretty close second — using webcams and the OpenTok video player API, the company lets customers book sessions and train with with personal trainers from pretty much anywhere they can get a Wi-Fi signal.
While the idea conjures up silly images of people hopping around their living rooms in front of a laptop, it’s not necessarily a new concept. Home workout videos (or VHS tapes, as they were) were popular in the 1980s, and there are now plenty of modern-day equivalents, including workout videos on YouTube or Netflix and exercise program apps for your phone. Wello, however, adds another person on the other side of the screen for perhaps a little more motivation.
Wello, which is expected to launch out of public beta on Wednesday, uses the API from OpenTok, a video chat service from TokBox that allows clients and trainers to communicate and exercise through the site. TokBox was founded in 2007 and has gone through many changes, swapping out CEOs, letting some employees go, and then raising funding to launch OpenTok as a way to boost business with corporate and startup clients.
Wello co-founder Leslie Silverglide explained that so far the service has appealed to a variety of customers, including busy professionals fitting in a workout late at night or while traveling, stay-at-home parents looking for a workout while a baby naps, or people who aren’t comfortable in a traditional gym setting.
Customers can browse the different trainers and exercise offerings on Wello’s site, picking the ones that fit their schedule and budget. Sessions are 25, 40, or 55 minutes long, and the average price is $40. Wello takes a percentage of the price the customer pays, and customers are provided with a link to the video session to access the class.
WebMD puts the average cost of personal training sessions in the United States at about $50 an hour, although it’s a difficult market to gauge and prices might vary dramatically based on location. Wello might be a hard sell for customers who would otherwise exercise to free videos on YouTube, but the convenience factor and reasonable price might make it a solid competitor to in-person sessions. All you need is a laptop, a webcam, and at least six feet of space to back up.